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April 2011, Vol. 134, No. 4
Employment loss and the 2007–09 recession: an overview
Christopher J. Goodman and Steven M. Mance
Christopher J. Goodman and Steven M. Mance are economists in the Division of Current Employment Statistics in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The downturn in employment accompanying the 2007–09 recession was notable for its prolonged length, for affecting an especially wide range of industries, and for being deeper than any other downturn since World War II
The U.S. economy is recovering from one of the longest and deepest recessions since the end of World War II (WWII). Virtually no area of the economy remained unscathed from the December 2007–June 2009 recession 1, particularly the labor market. Nonfarm payroll employment, measured by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, peaked in January 2008, 1 month after the peak in the business cycle. 2 After relatively modest job losses in early 2008, the losses increased sharply in the latter half of the year, and declines spread beyond traditionally cyclical industries.
The already-weak economy was jolted by financial market turmoil in fall 2008. The impact on employment was immediate and severe, with monthly job losses spiking to among the highest on record. 3 At its lowest point, February 2010, U.S. employment had declined by 8.8 million from its prerecession peak. The breadth and depth of the recession, particularly in comparison with recent recessions, has led some to label it "The Great Recession." 4 In 2010, the labor market stabilized as employment grew modestly. Despite recent improvements, the labor market continues to struggle from the aftermath of a historic employment downturn that is notable for its breadth, depth, and length.
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1 Recessions are identified by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). According to the NBER, the most recent recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. The previous two recessions were from March 2001 to November 2001 and from July 1990 to March 1991. For a complete list of business cycle dates, consult the NBER webpage at www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html (visited Nov. 2, 2010).
2 The data on employment used in this article are from the CES survey, which is a monthly survey of approximately 140,000 nonfarm businesses and government agencies representing approximately 440,000 individual worksites. For more information on the CES program’s methods, see “Technical Notes to Establishment Survey Data Published in Employment and Earnings” at www.bls.gov//web/empsit/cestn2.htm (visited Mar. 31, 2011). CES data are available at www.bls.gov/ces/ (visited Mar. 31, 2011). The CES data used in this article are seasonally adjusted unless otherwise noted.
3 The current CES monthly total nonfarm payroll employment series goes back to January 1939.
4 The term “Great Recession” has been used in numerous publications and is now considered an accepted term by the Associated Press.
Current Employment Statistics
Employment in services industries affected by recessions and expansions—Oct. 2001.
Post-recession trends in nonfarm employment and related indicators.—Sept. 2004.
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