Unemployment: Getting Better, but Still Awful

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The jobs market is getting better. But it's important to remember that better does not mean good. As the Congressional Budget Office noted this morning:

The rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this country since the Great Depression. CBO projects that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014. The share of unemployed people who have been looking for work for more than six months -- referred to as the long-term unemployed -- topped 40 percent in December 2009 and has remained above that level ever since.

Some of the statistics are horrifying. If the economy adds 200,000 jobs a month going forward, it would be 2019 before we return to normal levels of employment. Adding 400,000 a month, the economy wouldn't reach pre-recession levels until 2014, or seven years after the recession began.

A good way to put the current jobs rebound into historic perspective is this chart from the finance blog Calculated Risk:

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Here, too, you can see that things are clearly getting better. But the hole we found ourselves is so big that even large victories feel like small steps forward.

At the time this article was published

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