To put that in perspective, the U.S. auto industry shed about 450,000 jobs over the same period, with total employment dropping from 1.3 million to 850,000, for a 33% decline. High-tech employment lost 700,000 jobs, slipping 11% from 6.6 million to 5.9 million. In short, the newspaper business is about where many would expect, in terms of percentage losses -- worse off than high-tech but a little bit better than the auto industry.
Still, publishers have made an effort to preserve their newsroom headcounts, although some ax-swinging was clearly unavoidable. From 2001-2009, newspaper newsrooms lost a total 9,700 jobs, for a 17% decline from 56,400 to 46,700. The vast majority of cuts fell on business, administrative, production and circulation employees. (It's also worth noting many senior newsroom staff with relatively high salaries were probably replaced with younger, lower-paid journalists at entry-level positions.)
More alarming is the rate of decline in both total employment and newsroom employment, which has accelerated markedly over the last decade.
After losing an average 3.5% per year from 2001-2006, in 2007-2009, the average rate of loss increased to 5% per year. After a period of relative stability, newsroom losses grew steeper toward the end of the period: Total employment declined by an average 1% per year from 2001-2006, then accelerated to 5% from 2007-2009, including an 11% drop from 2008-2009.
I would argue that the newsroom figure must be low. News Cycle recorded more than 15,000 jobs lost in the industry in 2009 alone. The vast majority of the losses were editorial. Erica Smith's website Paper Cuts also came up with a similar number.
For full disclosure, I have been twice dismissed by layoff from newspaper positions, but only once during this time period.