On Wednesday an AP story about the current economy confirmed what anyone who has been paying attention already knows: the recession that, statistically at least, ended in the summer of 2009 “has been followed by the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression.”
The standard economic measurements of recovery from a recession tell a uniformly ugly story. Economic growth after a recession has never been weaker. Unemployment, which currently stands at 8.3 percent, has never before been so high three years after a recession’s end. Consumer spending has never been so paltry. And only once has job growth been slower than it is now.
Ever worse, the current “recovery” isn’t just barely falling short of past recoveries. For example, in the eight other examples AP analyzed, the growth in gross domestic product during the first three years of the recovery averaged 15.5 percent. The growth in GDP during the first three years of this recovery is 6.8 percent — or less than half the historical average. The growth in consumer spending is similarly less than half the historical average. Worst of all, in the eight prior recoveries, the economy regained, on average, 350 percent of the jobs lost during the recession. In the current recovery, we’ve replaced only 46 percent of the lost jobs. In short, whereas other recoveries racked up huge net gains in jobs, we haven’t even made up the jobs lost during the recession.
Economists and politicians can argue about why this “recovery” is so uninspired and, really, not much of a recovery at all. You can point to the various causes of the recession — the banking and credit crisis, the bursting of the housing bubble, consumers and businesses laden with absurd amounts of debt and taking foolhardy gambles in their affairs — and argue about whether the responses to the recession by Democrat and Republican, Congress and President, business, labor, and banks, consumers and investors alike, have been ill-considered.
One thing, however, is inarguable: This recovery is the worst we’ve had in the modern American era. Let’s not kid ourselves about that, or try to overlook what we know in our guts to be true.