Multimedia | Economic Growth

Historically deep job loss, but not an unusual recovery

Issue Brief #306

Download PDF

Press release

Two years since the end of the Great Recession, nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed and the unemployment rate remains over 9% (figures as of May 2011). The stubborn woes of the job market have led many to claim that economic policies enacted in recent years (particularly those strongly associated with the Obama administration) have delayed a more rapid recovery.

This claim is wrong. It is important to be clear about the actual root cause of today’s economic problems: the depth and severity of the recession that began in December 2007, the worst since the Great Depression. The pace of private-sector job creation during the economic recovery that began in June 2009 is, in fact, faster than during the previous recovery and in line with the recovery of the early 1990s. The current ongoing decline in government jobs, however, is a historic anomaly.

Of course, the comparatively positive or in-line rate of private-sector job creation should not let today’s policymakers off the hook—the nation’s labor market remains terribly weak and the current slow pace of jobs growth overall will needlessly consign millions of Americans to joblessness for years to come. Effective job creation policies must become a true national priority. 

Listen to Press Call with EPI’s Heidi Shierholz and Josh Bivens