Job Growth

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CBEI Blog - Job Growth

In January, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its preliminary estimate for fourth quarter 2023 economic growth in the United States. Economic growth is measured by changes in Gross Domestic Product, which is the value of goods and services produced in a given time period. Although rising interest rates slowed the economy in the first half of 2023 relative to the second half of 2022, moderate economic growth of 2.2% and 2.1% occurred in the first and second quarter, respectively. The second half of 2023 had excellent economic growth, with third quarter growth exceptionally strong at 4.9% and the preliminary estimate for fourth quarter economic growth at a robust 3.3%. The 2023 economic gains translated into another year of strong job growth in the U.S.

The table below shows monthly and total annual job growth from 2000 through 2023. The 24 years are ranked in descending order of total annual job growth. Job growth has been strong with the post-COVID economic recovery, with 2021, 2022, and 2023 placing in the top five years for job growth since the turn of the century. Every month from January 2021 through December 2023 had job gains. 2023 ranked fifth in total job growth, with over 4.7 million jobs added to the economy. The top two years for job growth since 2000 were 2021 (9.3 million jobs added) and 2022 (6.8 million jobs added). 2014 (ranked third) and 2015 (ranked fourth) round out the top five years for job growth this century.

One Month Net Change in Employment and Total Annual Change (in thousands)
January 2000 – December 2023

One Month Net Change in Employment and Total Annual Change (in thousands)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The job growth in 2021 was related to the massive job losses in 2020 due to the pandemic. Total employment had peaked in February 2020 at nearly 152.4 million, but the onslaught of COVID caused total employment to fall to only 130.4 million in April, a loss of nearly 22 million jobs in two months. Employment growth rapidly increased with the economic rebound beginning in May, but by the end of the year the economic rebound had slowed. Job gains were reduced each month beginning in September, with job losses occurring in December. 2020 was the worst year for jobs this century, with job losses of 7.2 million for the year. After peaking at 14.8% in April, the unemployment rate steadily declined but was still at 6.7% in December.

The job growth in 2021 was at least partially due to the low total employment caused by the pandemic in 2020 and the return to a more normal economy in 2021. The nearly 9.3 million jobs added in 2021 reduced the unemployment rate from 6.4% in January to only 3.9% in December. The job growth in 2022 and 2023 was particularly impressive as significant job gains continued despite the growth that already occurred in 2021. In June 2022 total employment surpassed the February 2020 pre-pandemic high. The 6.8 million jobs in 2022 added pushed total employment to a record high 154.5 million by yearend. However, job growth continued every month during 2023 which created a new record high for total employment in each month.

For job growth in 2024 to match the gains of the previous three years it will be challenging, as 2024 began with an unemployment rate of only 3.7% and more Americans working than ever before. An estimated 157.2 million Americans were employed in December 2023, as 4.7 million jobs were added during the year. Thus far, the current decade has featured three of the top five years in job growth this century, with 2021, 2022, and 2023 placing first, second, and fifth respectively. Hopefully the expected economic growth in 2024 will lead to another high placed year for job growth.

For further information:

  1. From the Bureau of Economic Analysis: Fourth Quarter 2023 Preliminary GDP Estimate
  2. Info from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Kevin Bahr

Kevin Bahr is a professor emeritus of finance and chief analyst of the Center for Business and Economic Insight in the Sentry School of Business and Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.