Budget Background

Apr 24 2014

The Economy Since 2009

A Chart Book on Economic Life in Working America

The recession officially ended in June 2009, but by nearly every measure, the period since has seen the slowest economic recovery since the end of World War II. Job creation is historically low for this point in a recovery, investment is poor despite record low interest rates, and labor supply is sluggish. Every day that passes in this “snail economy” sees working Americans slip further away from the income gains that could have been theirs in a normal recovery.

At the aggregate level, the economy is sluggish. At the household level, things are much worse—it seems like the recession never ended. Household incomes adjusted for inflation have steadily declined since 2009, wages plus benefits for most workers are lower today than three years ago, and the fastest growing segment of the population is households with incomes below $35,000.

Beginning in 2009, in response to the crisis, the Democratic Congress gave the Obama Administration well over a trillion dollars in “stimulus” funds, much of it borrowed from the incomes of future taxpayers. The Federal Reserve received full administration support for its low-interest policy and its quantitative easing program, which plowed over a trillion dollars into the credit system. The result? Boom times for Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has more than doubled since President Obama took office. The NASDAQ has increased by 192 percent over this same time period.

But if you are a typical wage earner, your income dropped or held flat. Employment and hours worked have still not recovered to 2007 levels. February 2014 marked the 74th consecutive month when total employment failed to exceed the number employed in December 2007 when the recession began:

  • December 2007 we had 146,273,000 people working;
  • February 2014 we had 145,266,000 people working;
  • Difference is a shortfall of 1,007,000;

No recovery since World War II has taken as long as this one to return total employment to its pre-recession level.

change in labor force participation rate

change in the share of households in each income group

To view the complete analysis as a PDF, please click here. To view a state-by-state analysis of the likely impact of a proposed increase in the statutory minimum wage, please click here.