The Truth About American Unemployment

How to Grow the Country’s Labor Force

Skills to pay the bills: iron-working apprentices training in West Virginia, March 2012. Jason Cohn / Reuters

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed, many economists worried that even if the U.S. economy improved, unemployment would remain high for years to come. Some warned darkly of a “jobless recovery.” Those fears have proved unfounded: since peaking at ten percent in October 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen by half and is now lower than it was in the years leading up to the crisis. Beyond the basic unemployment rate, a broad range of evidence shows that the labor market has largely returned to good health. Compared with earlier in the recovery, far fewer workers are underemployed or underutilized. Long-term unemployment has fallen steadily, from an all-time high of four percent of the labor force in early 2010 to just over one percent today. And adjusting for inflation, average hourly wages have been increasing for more than three years.


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