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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Big Hole

Big Hole

Courtesy of Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon 

Illustration of Light Drawn into a Black Hole

People have been throwing around numbers in the millions and billions and trillions since the crisis started. Over time, the data deluge has turned into a flood, and, occasionally, it is even hard for someone like me — who has been tracking and analyzing this stuff for a while — to get a grip on what it all means.

Maybe that’s the strategy: overwhelm the masses with endless zeroes and hope they either zone out or lose sight of the fact that those numbers represent decades of poor decisions, misguided policies, and illegal acts.

That said, sometimes all it takes to get to the bottom of some of those numbers is to recast the data in graphical form — because, like they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words." In "The Jobs Gap," the Washington Independent highlights research from one think tank that does just that, and what it says about the state of the employment market is pretty striking:

In light of last week’s dismal September jobs report, Heidi Shierholz, of the Economic Policy Institute, updates her estimates of how many jobs the United States needs to create to get back to where it was, employment-wise, when the recession started.

The labor market remains an estimated 8.1 million payroll jobs below where it was at the start of the recession in December 2007. This number includes both the 7.8 million jobs lost in the payroll data as currently published plus the announced preliminary benchmark revision of -366,000 jobs to last March’s employment level. And even this number understates the size of the gap in the labor market by failing to take into account the fact that simply to keep up with the growth in the working-age population, the labor market should have added around 3.4 million jobs since December 2007. This means the labor market is now roughly 11.5 million jobs below the level needed to restore the pre-recession unemployment rate (5.0 percent in December 2007).

In graphic terms:

Jobs-gap-480x388 

That begs the question: How will the economy get there? And leads to the worrying answer: It won’t, at least not anytime soon. Government spending — the kind that might, say, hire hundreds of thousands of construction workers — is out of the question. And that means private businesses will chip away at unemployment when the economy picks up a bit more, adding workers slowly, very slowly.

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