[Excerpt] Congress in recent years passed a number of bills intended in part to jump-start a recovery in the labor market from the recession that began in December 2007. Policymakers are interested in how employment has responded to stimulus measures to determine how effective the legislation has been and to decide whether additional job creation legislation is warranted.
A “jobless recovery” has been underway since the recession’s end in June 2009. That is to say, the number of jobs at private and public sector employers generally decreased between June 2009 and August 2010. After falling in the second half of 2009, overall employment rose through May 2010 partly as a result of the Census Bureau hiring workers temporarily to help conduct the decennial count of the population. Total employment subsequently resumed declining, driven in part by state and local governments laying off workers in an effort to address budget shortfalls. In contrast, after decreasing for six months from the recession’s end, the number of jobs in the private sector (i.e., excluding federal, state and local government) began to steadily increase in January 2010. Despite this recent job growth, there were fewer jobs at private sector firms in August 2010 than at the recession’s end.
Employment rebounded faster during almost all of the prior 10 recoveries of the postwar period. At a comparable point in the business cycle (14 months into the current recovery as of August 2010), the number of jobs overall and in the private sector exceeded their levels at the start of eight earlier recoveries. The exceptions are the two recoveries that immediately preceded the current one (i.e., the recoveries that followed the 1990-1991 and 2001 recessions).