The most recent recession is the worst on record for the U.S. since the Great Depression in terms of the peak share of jobs lost. The depth of the downturn in terms of the share of jobs lost was reached in February of 2010, when the US had shed 6.3 percent of the jobs it had in December 2007, the official start of the recession.
The economic recovery following the Great Recession has been too weak to restore all the jobs that were lost during the downturn. As of October 2013, almost six years after the official start of the recession, the U.S. still has 1.1 percent fewer jobs than at the recession's start. In each recession since the Great Depression, this many months after the onset of the downturn the US has regained all the jobs lost during the recession and added substantially to the number of jobs available (see chart, below). The slow progress in closing the jobs gap and returning to more robust economic growth is partly due to the unusual depth and severity of this recession and to a failure to adopt economic policies that would provide the sort of stimulus needed to increase demand.1
Simultaneously, the workforce has grown throughout this period. (The workforce includes all working age people, with jobs and without.) The result is that 9.2 million jobs are needed now in order to restore the US economy to rates of employment in effect prior to the recession's onset. As the US working age population continues to grow, the number of jobs needed in order to reach pre-recession employment rates will increase. Taking this workforce growth rate into account, the US would need to create 376,000 jobs each month during the next three years to attain pre-recession employment rates by 2017.
In Massachusetts, however, the total number of jobs in the state economy is larger now than at the onset of the Great Recession (though by a relatively small amount). Most other states and the US as a whole have experienced a net loss of jobs to date (US average = - .9 percent).
Despite an overall, net job gain, job losses and gains in Massachusetts have not been spread evenly across all employment sectors during the long, slow recovery from the Great Recession. Sectors that historically have provided higher-wage job opportunities for workers with limited formal educationthe Manufacturing and the Construction sectorstogether have gained only 1,300 net jobs. By contrast, sectors that offer low-wage jobs to these workersthe Leisure & Hospitality, the Retail Sales and the Other Services sectorshave added close to 60,000 jobs. The highest-wage Professional and Business sector also has seen robust growth.
Note: This data goes through June 2013.
1While there is good evidence that the federal stimulus prevented an even longer and deeper recession (see, for example, Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi, How the Great Recession Was Brought to an End, July 27, 2010) the weakness of the recovery suggests a need for additional measures. See Generate Jobs Now, a commentary on this topic from the Economic Policy Institute.