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Jobs recovery at five reveals uniquely weak expansion

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Snapshot for December 13, 2006.

Jobs recovery at five reveals uniquely weak expansion

by Jared Bernstein

With the recent release of employment data for November 2006, we now have employment data through the first five years of the current recovery, which began in November 2001. Over the history of the payroll data series, there are four economic recoveries that have lasted this long. As shown in the figure, job growth in this recovery has been the slowest by far. 

Payroll growth at five: recoveries lasting at least five years

Each bar shows percent growth in jobs for both total payrolls and private sector payrolls (excluding government) over the first five years of the economic expansion that began in the month shown on the X-axis. Over the five years—November 2001 to November 2006—of this recovery, total payroll employment is up 4.5%, compared with growth rates of 17.3%, 16.4%, and 9.5% in the other recoveries. Note that while the 1990s recovery also had an early “jobless” phase, at this point—five years out—employment growth was more than twice that of the current expansion. This uniquely weak performance in employment growth is one reason why the benefits of the expansion have been slow to reach many working families, who are only now beginning to see some real gains.

Data note: Source is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) establishment survey. Data for this recovery include the benchmark revision, which adds 810,000 jobs to the payroll survey from March 2005-March 2006. Since BLS has not announced the revisions for private sector payrolls, we scaled them up over these months using the ratio of revised to unrevised total payrolls.


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