Sunday, August 7, 2011

Employment Change: A Longer View

While we’re on the subject of employment change, I thought I get the data (here) and graph monthly employment change for a longer period—the last twenty-plus years. The graphic above, with recessionary periods marked, is the result. In this period we’ve had three recession with increasing durations, and increasingly deep dips in employment, most dramatically in the 2007-2009 period. The official dates of that one are from the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2009. The graphic shows that employment losses and recessions do not always coincide neatly. Recessions begin when the GDP stops growing. In the 1990-1991 recession, falling employment signaled the recession four months ahead of time. In the 2001 recession, employment still grew in the first month. In the “great” recession employment growth was present in 10 of the first 13 months. In none of the three cases shown here was employment recovery after the recessions “symmetrical,” meaning increasing in the same way as it dropped during the recession. A zigzagging pattern is “normal.” Indeed, fluctuations mark periods of strong growth as well, although month-to-month changes are typically always in the positive range.


  1. Very nice graph. The thing that struck me most in this post is the fact that the official start to the last recession was early in 2007 and not late in 2007 as I'd thought. Interesting.

    The dramatic declines in employment are, of course, also noteworthy...

  2. Yes. The dates -- taken from the BEA, hence very official -- surprise me too. And in my employment charts I show the Great Recession as 2008-2009...