Jobs Situation Now Worse Than 81-82 Recession


Justin Fox has an updated chart comparing job losses in percentage terms in the most recent six recessions. We’ve now surpassed the 1981–82 recession and, I think, thereby qualify ourselves for true “everything is terrible” status. On the other hand, the 81-82 recession came hot on the heels of the brief 1980 recession so in some ways we may still be neck-in-neck with early eighties-style badness.


That said, one other thing the chart illustrates is that things may be worse than that sort of comparison would indicate. The past two recessions haven’t been especially severe in terms of the lows plumbing the depths, but they’ve been very long in job market terms. Much more U-shaped than V-shaped. It’s particularly noteworthy than the 2001 recession was extremely brief in GDP terms, but the jobs effects lingered on forever. Insofar as the length/severity ration of labor market downturns is increasing over time for real reasons, that could indicate a jobs situation that stays bad for an extremely long time—much worse than in 81–82 even if we don’t fall that much further before bottoming out.

Indeed, the employment to population ratio never regained its dotcom-era high point during the most recent upswing, so in a sense this is all part of a much larger and bigger employment depression.