David Frum

04.09.12

To Most Americans, It Doesn't Feel Like an Economic Recovery

In my column this week for CNN, I discuss the dark social effects of the continuing weak recovery:

Friday's weak jobs report is more than a disappointing blip.

It is a glimpse ahead of our disappointing future.

Nearly three years from the beginning of the economic recovery in the summer of 2009, the U.S. economy has replaced not even half the jobs lost in the slump of 2007-2009. At the current pace of job creation, it will take until 2017 to replace all the jobs lost.

But of course the population has grown since 2007, so "replacement" is not good enough. We are even further away from equaling the employment rate of 2007—the proportion of the working-age population at work.

Even when (or if) full job recovery does come, it will not restore the economy of 2007 just as it was.

Recessions reshape economies.

The best book written about the social effects of the Great Recession is Don Peck's Pinched.

Peck shows us a new world emerging from the catastrophe of 2008, a new world that most Americans will find harsher than the old.

For example: Despite the long, slow relative decline of manufacturing as a source of American jobs, the total number of manufacturing jobs in the United States had remained constant at about 18 million for decades. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of manufacturing jobs dropped by 6 million.

While manufacturing is beginning a recovery now, it seems impossible that the sector will regenerate to anything like its former extent.

The new jobs being added to the U.S. economy pay less, on average, than the jobs lost—which is why the average rate of pay in the United States remains stagnant or even drops as the number of jobs slowly grows.

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