Worst jobs recession ever?

Back in June 2009, I declared that “my recession was worse than your recession,” meaning the lousy economic times I dealt with as a young man in the early 1980s were harder than what people were dealing with now.

Unemployment was one of the key stats I used to make my case. I wrote:

The U.S. unemployment rate topped 9 percent from March 1982 to September 1983, 18 months. The unemployment rate topped 9 percent in May 2009. Will it stay that high through November of next year? I don’t think so.

Oh, yeah, I was wrong. It took until March 2011 — 22 months — before the jobless rate fell below 9 percent.

I’ve since admitted that the Great Recession was worse than the economic contractions of the early 1980s. Now the Congressional Budget Office has taken it further:

The rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this country since the Great Depression.

CBO projects that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014. The share of unemployed people who have been looking for work for more than six months — referred to as the long-term unemployed — topped 40 percent in December 2009 and has remained above that level ever since.

The outlook for Minnesota is a lot better, obviously. We’re running 5.7 percent currently and spent only eight months at or above 8 percent.


Minnesota, though, is still hobbled by job growth slower than the U.S. In their November budget forecast, state officials dialed back again on when they think Minnesota will return to pre-recession employment.

In its forecast a year earlier, state officials said the jobs would be back by the middle of 2013, which was a pullback from its prediction a year earlier. Now it’s 2014.

So, yes, the Great Recession technically ran from December 2007 to June 2009. But it’s punch has lasted far longer. It is the worst U.S. jobs recession ever.

(h/t Wonkblog)

— Paul Tosto

  • Tyler

    I’m finding the drop-offs at the end of the graphs you present hard to believe, from the point that people are suddenly finding jobs. I think it’s more realistic that unemployment benefits are starting to expire for unemployed people, and they’re consequently not counted in the data.

  • BenCh

    Would be interesting to put lines over who was president or governor on that graph. I sort of lined it up with my fingers and seems some-what like a trend.