A new study by a University of California-Berkeley economist says that at current sluggish levels of job growth, entire regions of the United States, which were hit hardest by the Great Recession will not return to “normal” employment levels until the 2020s. This amounts, to “more than a ‘lost decade’ of depressed employment” for “half of the country,” wrote economist Danny Yagan.
The new study is one of many showing that the fall of the official unemployment rate, touted by the Obama administration and the news media as proof of a robust economic recovery, if not a return to “full employment,” is largely based on the fact that millions of workers fell out of the labor force in the years preceding and following the 2008 financial crash.
The labor-force participation rate fell to a 38-year low of 62.4 percent last fall, and only climbed up to 62.9 percent in February. According to the Economic Policy Institute, February’s official jobless rate of 4.9 percent—the lowest since the pre-recession level of 4.7 percent in November 2007—would really be 6.3 percent if the country’s “missing workers” were included. These include 2.4 million workers who have given up actively looking for work.
Yagan based his findings on a detailed study of some 2 million, similarly paid workers in the retail industry in order to calculate employment patterns across different local areas and to account for occupations that might have been particularly hard hit in one region.