Taking into account both the 2.4 million jobs we are still down from December 2007, and the 6.1 million jobs we should have added since then just to keep up with growth in the potential labor force, the current gap in our labor market is 8.5 million jobs.
While we don’t know what Friday’s jobs report will say, the economy has added an average of roughly 175,000 jobs per month over the last year. As this figure shows, if we continue at that pace, the gap in the labor market won’t close until early 2020. That would mean that, from beginning to end, the Great Recession led to twelve years of weak job opportunities for U.S. workers.
If that 175,000 average job growth rate jumped by over 25 percent, and we added 225,000 jobs every month, we would still not close the gap for another four and a half years, until early 2018. That would mean a full lost decade (and again, that’s if we were to see sustained job growth for the next 4.5 years that was more than 25 percent higher than what we have experienced so far).
If the growth rate of 175,000 nearly doubled, to 340,000 jobs per month, we would still not close the jobs gap for 2.5 years, until early 2016. In other words, the gap in our labor market is so profound that even if we added more than a million jobs each quarter, it would take us another 2.5 years to be made whole. Behind these numbers is the financial and emotional toll that unemployment takes on millions of Americans who want to work but cannot find jobs.
Getting the kind of job growth we need would take a radical shift from policy makers. Absent that shift, we can expect to see elevated unemployment for years to come—which represents an ongoing disaster for the U.S. workforce.