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Job recovery still lags far behind
Payroll jobs are now 332,000, or 0.3%, greater than at the start of the recession 47 months ago (March 2001). However, private-sector jobs are still down by 477,000, a contraction of 0.4%. The 809,000 jobs created in the government sector in this time explain the difference between growth in total payroll and private-sector jobs. Overall, this level of creation represents the worst job performance since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting monthly jobs data in 1939 (at the end of the Great Depression). In the three downturns since the early 1970s, the economy had not only recovered all the jobs lost during the recession but had also generated 6.0% more jobs (6.1% more private-sector jobs) than existed at the start of the recession. If this historical standard had prevailed in the private sector, the economy would have 7,282,000 more private-sector jobs today.

Change in total employment, 47 months after the recession began

Change in private-sector employment, 47 months after the recession began

Employment down relative to population: no progress in sight
Another reflection of the labor market's prolonged weakness is that employment has not grown relative to the working-age population over the last year, failing to close any of the jobs deficit that developed in the recession. For instance, 64.3% of the working-age population was employed at the recession's start in March 2001, whereas in February 2005 only 62.3% was employed—a deficit of 4.5 million jobs. Moreover, this employment gap does not even take into account the normal expectation of growth in the employment-to-population rate each year. Even last year's job growth was insufficient to increase the employment-to-population rate, suggesting that this recovery will not close the jobs deficit anytime soon. This failure to increase the employment rate over the last year and relative to March 2001 is particularly interesting when examining these trends by gender and race (see charts below).

Employment-to-population ratio by gender, March 2001, February 2004, and February 2005

Employment-to-population ratio by race, March 2001, February 2004, and February 2005


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