Wouldn’t you know it? Right after I post a compilation of
graphical representations of the winter
of our hardship, out come some more (HT: DeLong,
The first shows the absolute number of job losses in this recession,
compared to all other post-WWII recessions. It looks bad.
But, to put this in perspective, recall that the population keeps going
up. Perhaps it is more meaningful to look at relative numbers, by
expressing the losses as a percentage of the workforce:
Or, viewed differently, in terms of year-over-year change:
Not quite as bad, when viewed in relative numbers, but still a serious
problem. Keep in mind that the recovery from the 2001 recession
was never very robust. As noted by the New
York Fed in 2003:
The current recovery has seen steady growth in output but
no corresponding rise in employment. A look at layoff trends and
industry job gains and losses in 2001-03 suggests that structural
change–the permanent relocation of workers from some industries to
others–may help explain the stalled growth in jobs.
Payroll Job Growth during Recoveries
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics;
Note: The shaded area indicates the length of the 2001 recession.
People went from manufacturing cars to manufacturing hamburgers.
Therefore, the drop in employment, this time around, could have a
bigger impact. The real economy was still wobbly when the current
Clearly, there are more humps ahead:
Obama said, in a major press conference last night, that we are in “the
winter of our hardship.” This is considerably more eloquent than Hoover’s
proclamation that “recovery is just around the corner.”
(Being more eloquent that Hoover is not difficult.) It is even
more eloquent that Carter’s
“malaise” speech, which is a higher bar to clear.
He dared to use the word “hardship.” This was counterbalanced, to
some extent, by his statement:
“I am the eternal optimist.”
He said the country could be in better shape by next year,
as measured by increased hiring, lending, home values and other
factors. “If we get things right, then, starting next year, we can
start seeing significant improvement.”
I disagree with him on that point, unless he is referring to a
slowing in the rate of decline as an improvement.