The February jobs report released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics might have been surprisingly strong, offering some hope that the U.S. economy can keep growing at a moderately healthy pace as private- sector employers and consumers try to shrug off the added fiscal austerity from Washington.
Even so, the jobs market is far weaker than it has been at similar points following previous recessions. What’s more, as Jacob Goldstein at Planet Money points out, full recovery from recessionary job loss takes more than just getting back to the previous peak employment levels. Population growth means we need many more jobs than we had five years ago. Heidi Shierholz at the liberal Economic Policy Institute wrote Friday that we still have a deficit of 8.9 million jobs, including 3 million needed to get back to where we were when the recession started and another 5.9 million we would have had to add to keep pace with the growth in the potential labor force.
“The jobs deficit is so large that to return to the prerecession unemployment rate by February 2016, another three years from now, we would have to add 320,000 jobs every single month between now and then,” Shierholz wrote.
By contrast, the number of jobs was about 7 percent above its previous peak at this point in previous recoveries, NPR’s Goldstein writers. See NPR’s chart below, or click through to the Planet Money blog for an interactive version.