Writing in this morning's WSJ Ahead of the Tape column($), Mark Gongloff observes that "jobless recoveries" are a relatively new development.
The time-worn Wall Street gospel is that employment is a lagging indicator, but that isn't always so. It has only lagged significantly in the recoveries that followed the past two recessions.
In the eight recessions between World War II and 1982, payrolls bottomed and unemployment peaked, on average, less than one and two months, respectively, after the recessions ended.
Assuming, as most economists do, that the latest recession technically ended in June 2009, this recovery already is looking jobless.
Economists, on average, expect unemployment to peak in February 2010 -- eight months after the recession's assumed end. Even that forecast might be optimistic.
Yes, that's a typo in the graphic above (something that seems to happen quite a bit these days). It should say "Nov. 2001" as the end date for the last recession.
In chart form, the situation is as shown below via the Kansas City Federal Reserve.
Those sharp declines in unemployment following all recessions right up through the 1982 downturn represent an economy that is quite different than the one we have today.
Naturally, the differences were viewed as a good thing during the last two recessions when unemployment peaked at relatively low levels.
Now that we're challenging the early-1980s peak in unemployment with a return trip to lower levels of joblessness likely to come at a sluggish pace, these differences are taking on a whole new connotation.
This post has been republished from Tim Iacono's blog, The Mess That Greenspan Made.