The media is claiming for the twentieth time that the recession is over. The recession has already ended so many times, it could have begun all over again.
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the U.S. economy added 217,000 jobs in May, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 6.3 percent. The economy needed to add 113,000 to pass the prerecession peak number of jobs from January 2008. The United States lost 8.7 million jobs in the recession. But this overlooks the simple fact that there are more working-age people in the U.S. now than there were six years ago.
Here’s one way of looking at that. There were 7.6 million unemployed people in the U.S. in January 2008, and the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent. Today, there are 9.8 million unemployed Americans, well over 2 million more than before the recession, and the unemployment rate is much higher.
So, while on its face it looks like the U.S. regained all the jobs lost over the past six years, that perspective doesn’t take into account the number of new people in the labor force or address the labor market gap created by those new people. Heidi Shierholz of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute notes that, as of last month, there was a 7.1 million-job gap from prerecession levels.
In this time, the U.S. civilian population increased by nearly 14.5 million people, although the labor force grew by just 1.7 million new jobs, according to BLS data.
A million immigrants come to the US each year. So we had 7 million immigrants and 1.7 million jobs. And the jobs are at the lower end of the pool which is why immigrants tend to show higher employment figures.
Significantly, employment in temporary help jobs has grown by 45% in the recovery and accounted for 10% of overall employment gains, as employers have waded tepidly back into hiring decisions. Employment in accommodation and food services — where many of our economy’s minimum-wage jobs exist — grew 13% and accounted for 17% of total new employment.
The “recovery” consists of millions of immigrants competing for a small number of low income jobs.
The civilian labor force participation rate was unchanged in May, at 62.8 percent. The participation rate has shown no clear trend since this past October but is down by 0.6 percentage point over the year.
This is what an Obama recovery looks like.