Millions of Lost Jobs Won't Return

By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer construction workers will be needed. Don't expect as many interior designers or advertising copywriters, either. Retailers will get by with leaner staffs.

The economy is strengthening. But millions of jobs lost in the recession could be gone for good.

And unlike in past recessions, jobs in the beleaguered manufacturing sector aren't the only ones likely lost forever. What sets the Great Recession apart is the variety of jobs that may not return.

That helps explain why economists think it will take at least five years for the economy to regain the 8.2 million jobs wiped out by the recession — longer than in any other recovery since World War II.

It means that even as the economy strengthens, more Americans could face years out of work. Already, the percentage of the labor force unemployed for six months or longer is 4.3%. That's the highest rate on records dating to 1948.

Behind the trend are the cutbacks businesses made in the recession to make up for a loss of customers. To sustain earnings, they became more productive: They found ways to produce the same level of goods or services with fewer workers. Automation, global competition and technological efficiencies helped solidify the trend.

Diminished home equity and investment accounts have made shoppers more cautious, too. And their frugality could endure well into the recovery. That's why fewer retail workers, among others, will likely be needed.

Among those whose former jobs may be gone for good are:

— Julie Weber of Milwaukee, who designed office cubicles for nearly seven years. She lost her job about a year ago. Since then, she's been able to find only part-time work outside her field. Interior design was hammered by the real estate downturn. "My hope for getting back into the industry is not very high," says Weber, 29.

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