Chapter 1

America’s Jobs Emergency

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 12 million Americans remain unemployed—more than four years after the official end of the Great Recession. To put that figure in perspective, 12.8 million Americans were unemployed in 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, and 11.9 million Americans were unemployed in November of 1982, the deepest point of the severe 1981–1982 recession. Another eight million Americans currently work part-time involuntarily, while an estimated 4 million have simply given up looking for work. More than four years into the current economic recovery, 15 percent of the American workforce is either without work, underemployed, or has left the workforce discouraged. At the current pace of job creation—a monthly average of just 180,000 new jobs since the beginning of 2012—America will likely not return to pre-recession levels of employment until 2023.1


The economic downturn that began in December of 2007 certainly earned the grim and, by now, familiar moniker “The Great Recession.” According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the unofficial arbiter of recession start and end dates, the recent recession stretched 18 months—until June of 2009—making it the longest period of economic contraction since World War II. The longest post-war recessions had been those of 1973–1975 and 1981–1982, both ...

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