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Spotlight on Statistics

February 2012

BLS Spotlight on Statistics: The Recession of 20072009

Audio Script

A general slowdown in economic activity, a downturn in the business cycle, a reduction in the amount of goods and services produced and sold—these are all characteristics of a recession. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of U.S. recessions), there were 10 recessions between 1948 and 2011. The most recent recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, though many of the statistics that describe the U.S. economy have yet to return to their pre-recession values. In this Spotlight, we present BLS data that compare the recent recession to previous recessions.

Here are some facts about The Recession of 20072009:

  • In December 2007, the national unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, and it had been at or below that rate for the previous 30 months. At the end of the recession, in June 2009, it was 9.5 percent. 
  • In the months following the recent recession, North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota had the lowest unemployment rates (5.2 percent or lower) among the 50 states. Nevada, California, and Michigan had some of the highest jobless rates (above 10.0 percent).
  • By the end of the recent recession, the U.S. unemployment rate was higher than the rates in most other industrialized countries.
  • The employment decline experienced during the December 2007–June 2009 recession was greater than that of any recession of recent decades.
  • After a dip in late 2006, employment of young men trended upward and then remained fairly stable until late fall of 2008, well into the recent recession.  Young men’s employment declined from late fall 2008 until June 2009.
  • Employment increased in education and health services during the recent recession. In fact, employment has increased in education and health services for more than 30 years, regardless of the business cycle.
  • During the recession, the number of job openings decreased 44 percent, while employment declined 5 percent. Since the end of the recession, the number of job openings has trended upwards. 
  • During the recession of 2007–2009, the increases in the wages and salaries of private industry employees slowed to 1.3 percent in December 2009 from a year earlier. This was far below the 3.6 percent increase from March 2006 to March 2007, after the recovery from the 2001 recession.

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