Our historically bad economy in 2 charts

We swim through so much economic data these days — housing starts, jobless numbers, mortgage rates, etc. — that it’s easy to lose the long view on what we’ve lived through in the Great Recession.

Two charts, built and recently updated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, offer a sobering view on just how historically bad it’s been and continues to be.



Three years ago, I wrote (bragged?) that conditions during my first recession in 1981 were still worse than in the Great Recession.

The data have proved me very wrong. The total change in employment is really startling. In every other post-war recession, employment was above the pre-recession peak within four years. Not so this time. And most of the employment growth we’ve seen in the “recovery” are in low wage jobs.

Long road back.

— Paul Tosto

  • Richard Larson

    Pretty dramatic. You didn’t mention that in 3 of the past 4 recessions, government jobs actually increased after the recession began. Not so this time. In the current one, government jobs have decreased. That fact has a lot to do with the lagging unemployment rate, yet few people are talking about that. I would love to see an adjusted unemployment rate that factors in the same rate of govt. job increase as in past recessions.

  • Mark Gisleson

    The difference? Even Ronald Reagan backed way down and raised taxes after exacerbating the recession of the early ’80s with his give-to-the-rich and take-away-from-the-poor initiatives.

    Now? Now even Democrats are afraid to raise taxes on the 1%, and the economy keeps getting worse because there just aren’t enough jobs to be had when your economy decides to focus on gold-plating cocktail forks instead of building infrastructure.

  • BJ

    I think a lot of mid sized companies are starting to see potential for gain. I think regardless of November they will see 4 years of expected results and will invest.

    Larger companies I think will lag in action and growth.

  • Rosie R

    @ Richard Larson-

    Do you think that part of that is becasue the government is hiring private consultants or contracting rather than hiring employees?r

    These consultants can claim non-profit status and get “kick back” from the government.

  • kennedy

    These charts show a great perspective and comparison. Shows that the term “jobless recovery” has some merit.