June 6, 2016 Last Updated 1:14 pm

BLS data helps illustrate the sharp decline in newspaper and magazine industry employment

Data shows that it’s not just the newspaper industry that has seen big job losses since the last recession, the magazine and book publishing fields have seen sharp job declines, as well

Parents don’t let your children grow up to be in the publishing industry. We all know that, right? But a collection of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows just how bad the job losses have been in the newspaper and magazine business in the U,S.

A little over a month ago TNM reported that the BLS had revealed that Internet publishing jobs had now exceeded those in the newspaper industry. This same data has been supplemented with data from other areas such as the magazine, book and motion picture and video production businesses.

The sharp decline in newspaper jobs is well known, but the chart the BLS put together puts it in stark relief. The chart I included in the last report showed that newspaper jobs really started to be lost at an accelerated pace following the 2007-8 fiscal crisis and recession – and at the same time employment in Internet publisher really began to take off.

This chart tells me a few other things, however:


First, it is obvious that recessions hurt employment, but when you look at newspaper and Internet publishing data together you see that it was the last recession that really changed the world of print versus digital publishing. Many of us who were involved in digital publishing well before 2008 always expected the shift to take place, but were actually surprised that shift did not occur earlier. Was it the tech bubble that prevented this from happening, or was it the fact that the recession of 2001 was so shallow?

BLS-nonewspapers-400Second, it may appear that the job losses in the magazine business pale in comparison to the newspaper business, and that the losses have been more gradual.

But this is not true. From July 2000 until the latest data, employment in periodicals has fallen more than 45 percent – but since the last recession, it has fallen 35 percent.

This is what happens when a chart is created to show the highest number, newspaper employment in 1990. Take out newspaper and the story really would be about how many jobs have been lost in the magazine and book publishing businesses.

Speaking of book publishing, this chart shows that the industry has been cut by a quarter. But the really bad news is that almost all of that was seen since the last recession.

What this means is that digital media is now really effecting the magazine and book publishing businesses almost as severely as it has hurt newspaper employment.

But like measuring eBook sales, my guess is that there is some noise in these numbers. Have some jobs been redefined, or altered to such an extent that they have simply moved from category to the other? Also, how many job losses in the publishing business are being seen in the production and distribution side of the business? So, for instance, if a newspaper truck driver loses their job but ends up working for another company as a truck driver that is merely a shift, and not a lost job, right? Also, what about someone who used to sell quarter page print ads for a newspaper but today sells digital media campaigns for a shopper marketing firm? Those jobs probably are not considered Internet publishing.

  • Tony Silber 2 years ago

    Interesting report, and anecdotally it seems true, but it’s awfully challenging to pull precise figures from BLS data, and draw precise and narrowly focuse conclusions, because of the way BLS groups industries. Printers and lots of other tangentially or unrelated industries are included in the analysis. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/naics4_511100.htm