By Jeff Wallace, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor, Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research
The structure of the Memphis economy is always undergoing change. In every case, the changes are partly cyclical and partly structural. Variations in employment reflect the growth and contractions of businesses throughout the community. Over two decades, the industrial employment patterns shown below tend to reflect changes in the structure of the labor market. The growth of some sectors and the decay of others takes time.
Memphis has always been a slow steady growth town with modest declines during recessions and modest recoveries during expansion periods. Over the last two decades, Memphis experienced the jobless recovery, the brief expansion period prior to the Great Recession, the major losses of the Great Recession and finally the long recovery after the recession. It is little wonder that total employment has increased very little over the 20-year period. At the same time, tremendous structural changes have continued with declines in manufacturing offset by gains in other sectors like healthcare, transportation and services. The presentation below shows the changes that occurred but not the reasons why. Future articles will focus on forecasts of employment change.