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Dismal employment trends characterize 2000 business cycle

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This week’s Snapshot previews data to be presented as part of the forthcoming The State of Working America 2008/2009.

Snapshot for August 6, 2008.

Dismal employment trends characterize 2000 business cycle

by Heidi Shierholz

As a consensus emerges that the U.S. economy has entered a recession, we are now in a position to characterize the full business cycle of the 2000s. The employment situation in 2000s business cycle was considerably weaker than that of the 1990s.1


  • It took longer to regain pre-recession employment levels: Nearly four years passed before the number of jobs in the economy returned to the level reached prior to the recession of 2001. By comparison, after the recession of the early 1990s, it took just over two-and-a-half years to regain peak level employment.

  • Employment growth remained sluggish: Over the entire business cycle of the 2000s, job growth averaged only 0.6% per year—well below what was needed to keep up with labor force growth. By comparison, over the business cycle of the 1990s, annual job growth averaged 1.8%.

  • The employment-to-population ratio deteriorated: For the first business cycle on record, the employment-to-population ratio declined over the 2000s, dropping by 1.5 percentage points.2 Over the 1990s the employment-to-population ratio increased by 1.7 percentage points.

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1. The 2000s cycles is measured from the official business cycle peak in March 2001 to the presumed peak in December 2007. The 1990s cycles is from the official peak in July 1990 to that of March 2001.

2. The employment-to-population ratio is calculated for prime-age workers (age 25-54). This analysis does not include the 18-month business cycle from January 1980 to July 1981, when the employment-to-population ratio decreased by 0.3 percentage points.

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