Planet Money
10:08 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Three Years Of An Awful Recovery

Originally published on Mon June 4, 2012 12:25 pm

The recession ended and the recovery began in June, 2009. It's an ugly third birthday for the labor market

More than 7 million U.S. jobs disappeared during the recession. Fewer than 3 million have been added in the recovery. And the rate of job growth has been falling lately; in May, the economy added just 69,000 jobs. That's not even enough to keep up with population growth.

The number of people who are unemployed or underemployed has fallen from its peak, but it's still far higher than it was when the recession began.

People in the prime of their working life are slowly leaving the labor force. In other words, not only are they not working; they're giving up entirely on finding a job.

Why is this even called a recovery? The committee that officially decides when we're in a recession explained itself a few years back:

In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable ... Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month. A recession is a period of falling economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months ... The trough marks the end of the declining phase and the start of the rising phase of the business cycle. Economic activity is typically below normal in the early stages of an expansion, and it sometimes remains so well into the expansion.

Well into the expansion, indeed.

Note: This post was updated to incorporate the May jobs numbers, which were released Friday morning.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.