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March 2009, Vol. 132, No. 3
U.S. labor market in 2008: economy in recession
James Marschall Borbely
Turmoil in the housing, credit, and financial markets plagued the U.S. economy in 2008, and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) identified December 2007 as the beginning of a recession.1 The labor market started to slide during the second half of 2007 and continued sliding throughout 2008. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the unemployment rate rose to 6.9 percent and the unemployment level reached 10.6 million, an increase of 2.1 percentage points and 3.3 million persons, respectively, over the fourth quarter of 2007. The current recession has hit the labor market particularly hard. The increase in the unemployment rate in 2008 was larger than that experienced during the 2001 recession and was the largest fourth-quarter-to-fourth-quarter increase since 1982. (See chart 1.)
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1 NBER is generally recognized as the official arbiter of recessions in the United States. The organization determined that the recession prior to the current one lasted from March 2001 to November 2001. The NBER has not yet determined an end point for the recession that began in December 2007.
Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Household survey indicators weaken in 2007.—Mar. 2008.
Trends in labor force participation in the United States.—Oct. 2006.
Lower unemployment in 2005.—Mar. 2006.
Household survey indicators show some improvement in 2004.—Mar. 2005.
The U.S. labor market in 2003: signs of improvement by year’s end—Mar. 2004.
U.S. labor market in 2002: continued weakness—Feb. 2003.
U.S. labor market in 2001: economy enters a recession—Feb. 2002.
The job market in 2000: slowing down as the year ended.—Feb. 2001.
The job market remains strong in 1999.—Feb. 2000.
Job growth slows during crises overseas.—Feb. 1999.
Strong job growth continues, unemployment declines in 1997.—Feb. 1998.
Employment in 1996: jobs up, unemployment down.—Feb. 1997.
Slower economic growth affects the 1995 labor market.—Mar. 1996.
Strong employment gains continue in 1994.—Feb. 1995.
BLS introduces new range of alternative unemployment measures.—Oct. 1995.
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