Last week, the federal government released its latest employment figures, and they contained some data that some put forward as a milestone. Since the end of the post-2007 recession, the country’s businesses and nonprofit organizations have produced 8.9 million jobs. This is seemingly significant because economists estimate that roughly 8.8 million jobs were lost during the recession sparked by the financial crisis resulting from the housing market meltdown. We’re as anxious as anyone for some good economic news to cheer. Last week’s employment news, alas, probably is only worth one cheer. By most accounts, the recession ended sometime in mid-2009, so it has taken five years to get to this point. That is troubling because historically, economic contractions and recoveries tend to follow a parabolic path. That means a quick and steep plunge is followed by a quick and steep recovery back to the level of economic activity seen before the recession. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen this time. We got the long, quick plunge to the bottom, but the recovery path has been lengthy and at times the upward movement has been barely perceptible. Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, told the Associated Press the 8.9 million jobs-created figure is “pretty meaningless” because millions of more jobs should have been created since the recession.
Since the recession, Washington has spent too much time on matters such as the Affordable Care Act and too little time on things that will actually boost economic activity and job creation. With mid-term congressional elections looming this fall, we hope that is about to change.