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The causes and consequences of sectoral reallocation: Evidence from the early 21st century

A number of industries underwent large and permanent reductions in employment growth at the beginning of this decade. We investigate the sources of these permanent changes in employment growth and what the consequences were for the U.S. economy. In particular, we find that relative declines in demand rather than technological innovations were the key drivers of the elevated levels of job destruction and permanent layoffs in the affected industries. In addition, most workers that were displaced in downsizing industries relocated to other sectors. While this process of reallocation led to large increases in productivity (and a reduction in labor’s share of aggregate income) in industries shedding workers, it also resulted in prolonged periods of unemployment for many displaced workers, along with sizable reductions in earnings that were consistent with substantial losses in their specific human capital. Putting these pieces together, we estimate the costs to those adversely affected by these events to have been 1/2 percent to 1 percent of aggregate income per year.