1. What the jobs report really means

      US Employees on Private Nonfarm Payrolls (in thousands)
    2. Because consumer spending fuels economic activity in the United States, accounting for about 70 percent of the country's gross domestic product, investors and economists pay close attention to employment data.

      The logic is simple: a person with a job has money to spend, and the more spending he or she does, the perkier the economy gets.

      US Employees on Private Nonfarm Payrolls (in thousands)
    3. Data from recent years shows that employers are adding jobs at a healthy pace. That must mean that it's time to celebrate!

      Well, not just yet.

      US Employees on Private Nonfarm Payrolls (in thousands)
    4. First, let's see how many workers companies of all sizes have employed annually since 1990.

      As you can see, the job losses of the recent recession were dramatic and the recovery has been slow and steady.

      Now let's break down job gains and losses by sector.

      Private Employment (in thousands)
    5. This chart shows how different sectors of the economy contributed to overall changes in private employment.

      A standout: well-paying, middle-class jobs in manufacturing and construction have evaporated in two huge waves...

      12 Month Changes in Private Employment (in thousands)
    6. ...while jobs in education and health care have grown steadily over the years, even during recessions.

      12 Month Changes in Private Employment (in thousands)
    7. Manufacturing and construction workers have lost millions of jobs during recessions -- and subsequent economic rebounds haven't brought all of those jobs back.

      There are about six million fewer people working in those sectors than at the peak in the year 2000.

      12 Month Changes in Private Employment (in thousands)
    8. Although the decline in manufacturing and construction jobs has been partially offset by the growth in health care and education positions, those industries pay significantly less – meaning that many consumers' wages and spending power have decreased.

      Weighted Average Weekly Earnings (U.S. dollars)
    9. More recently, the lowest-paid sectors of the economy – leisure, hospitality, and retail – have been driving job growth.

      Share of 6-Mo Change in Total Private Employment (percent)
    10. These shifts in the job market may help explain why growth in private-sector wages has stagnated over the past few years.

      Regardless of the cause, decreased spending power makes life more challenging for average workers, can stunt broad-based economic growth, and makes the American Dream that much more elusive.

      6-Mo Change in Average Weekly Earnings for Private Sector Workers (percent)
    11. 6-Mo Change in Average Weekly Earnings for Private Sector Workers (percent)