The Great Jobs Shift

How major industries have changed from their peak up to today.

Image
Reuters

The graph below, via urban planner Dan Taylor, attempts to chart the biggest shifts in North American job trends over the past 100 years, highlighting the previous shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy during the 20th century, and from an industrial to what he's calling the Creative Age today. The graph, by Carrie Taylor, is based on data put together my colleague Kevin Stolarick of the Martin Prosperity Institute and includes data for the United States and Canada.

The purple bars show the percent of the workforce employed in an era's major industry during its peak. The blue bars show that industry's same job share in 2012.

The chart shows that in 1900, 60 percent of the workforce held agrarian jobs. In 2012, only one percent held similar positions.

In 1950, we had fully entered the Industrial Age. By that time, roughly 50 percent of jobs were in manufacturing but these have declined to around 12 percent today.

Today, we are transitioning from the Industrial to the Creative Age. Now roughly one-third of all jobs are in the professional, technical, knowledge and creative economy, up from roughly 5 percent in 1900.

As Taylor writes:

As we moved from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age employment growth and and wealth creation shifted from one to the other, now we are seeing a similar shift again. If we want to see our communities prosper, we need to make sure we are focused on future economic growth opportunities versus ones from the past. The previous wealth drivers don’t disappear, they just diminish in their importance and contribution to wealth creation and employment, while making room for new ones.

The central task for today's political leadership is to chart an economic course that creates space for the new economic order to flourish. That means building the new institutions and opportunities that train our workers to take on the challenges of a creative class economy.

Photo credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

About the Author

  • Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More
    Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here