Skip to main content
off the charts

Why Good Jobs Reports Aren’t Good Enough

Like the Roman god Janus, who looks at both the past and the future, my latest post for US News & World Report looks at where the jobs market is coming from and where it needs to go:

Looking in the rearview mirror, the latest jobs report looks OK — at least we’re heading in the right direction.  But looking at the road ahead, we still face a long uphill climb, and it will take a whole string of jobs reports significantly better than February’s to get us back to full employment in any reasonable period of time.

Our chartbook, The Legacy of the Great Recession, tells the story.  The Great Recession (from December 2007 to June 2009) produced an unprecedented jobs deficit and inflicted other serious damage on the jobs market.  The economy has been growing since then, but a large jobs deficit and other symptoms of serious labor market distress remain.

This chart shows why we can’t be complacent about the jobs recovery.  The share of the population with a job plunged to levels last seen in the mid-1980s and has remained there.  This measure captures not only the high unemployment rate but also the fact that people left the labor force in droves during the recession and have largely remained on the sidelines.  Labor force participation rose in February, but only slightly.