US Economy Will Return To December 2007 Employment Levels... In 2021!

Tyler Durden's picture

Even as Bernanke is receiving his last minute briefing on what to say (everything, EVERYTHING, is good) and what to play dumb on (explaining the price of gold for example), a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research concludes that digging ourselves out of the current unemployment hole, which is 7.5 million less people having jobs than did in December 2007, will take at least 4 years, and not occur prior to March 2014. However, this assumes a flat working-age population, something the Fed would love to be the case. Alas, the country is growing: and if one incorporates the effects of labor force growth into the above analysis, as the CEPR authors have done using CBO projections, then we may have a much larger problem on our hands: the study concludes that taking into account the approximately 14 million new job seekers in the future, then the December 2007 unemployment rate will not be met until April 2021! Welcome to the new normal. Of course, both of these analyses assume that the economy will immediately commence growing and generating jobs at the recovery rate seen in the 2000s, when about 166,000 jobs per month were being added. With every month that this does not happen the 2021 date will continue being pushed out further into the future. Perhaps one of the Senators today can ask a question of Bernanke just how he plans on reconciling this glaringly simple explanation for why the US economy will be underwater for a period of over a decade.

The CEPR report first describes the hole we are in:

Figure 1 shows the monthly change in total employment in the U.S. economy, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly establishment survey, from the peak of the 2000s business cycle (December 2007) through the most recent month available (June 2010). Job losses peaked at about 700,000 per month between November 2008 and March 2009. From spring 2009 through the end of that year, the economy continued to shed jobs at a slower and slower pace. In 2010, the economy started to create jobs (on net) for the first time since 2007. Job growth was particularly fast in May 2010, but about 411,000 of the 431,000 net jobs created that month were temporary jobs with the decennial census. The economy shed 100,000 jobs in June 2010, in part reflecting the loss of temporary census jobs.

The monthly job loss figures, however, don’t give a clear picture of the depth of the problems facing the labor market. Figure 2 reproduces the net monthly job loss data from Figure 1, but also displays the cumulative change in employment, relative to the total employment level in December 2007. The main difficulty facing the labor market is not the employment losses in any given month, but rather the cumulative effect of two years of almost continual job losses. For seven months beginning in September 2009, the economy was over eight million jobs below its December 2007 level. Even with the jobs created so far in 2010, the economy remains almost 7.5 million jobs short of its prerecession level.

Looking at projection scenarios, here is the baseline scenario, which alone provides no Joy in mudville: using an assumed expansion case seen in the 2004-2007 economic recovery in which 166,000 jobs per month were created, the current 7.5 million hole would take about 4 years to fill.

Figure 3 shows the results of projecting future job creation assuming that, from July 2010 forward, the economy creates jobs at the same pace as the fastest four calendar years in the most recent economic expansion. (The period covers January 2004 through December 2007; job creation rates were about 0.12 percent per month, or about 166,000 jobs per month given the size of the current workforce.) The point where the projected cumulative job loss line crosses zero marks the year and month when overall employment will have returned to its December 2007 level. So, if job creation from here on proceeds at the same rate as it did in the 2000s expansion, the economy will not restore December 2007 employment levels until March 2014.

Yet what many completely have ignored up until the authors of this paper put it to paper, is that the US population is a-growing, and that factoring in the organic expansion of the US population will add millions to the labor force over the next decade: according to CBO estimates, the natural labor force growth rate is 90,000 a month. Adding this to the running future gap makes things far worse for any administration that will run on the promise of returning unemployment rate to recent levels. From the paper:

Meanwhile, the working-age population of the United States will be growing, as a steady stream of potential new workers enters the labor force each month. Returning to the December 2007 level of employment many years after that level was first achieved will still leave the economy in a jobs deficit relative to this expanded labor force.

Figure 4 incorporates the effects of this labor force growth into the analysis. The top line in the figure shows the cumulative change in the labor force, assuming that labor force growth follows CBO projections. (Based on CBO (2010), Table 2-2. This is analogous to the cumulative change in employment in the bottom half of Figures 2, 3, and 4. The CBO does not publish monthly projected increases in the labor supply, but these rates are implicit in their labor-market projections. Based on CBO projections, we assume a monthly growth in the labor force of just over 90,000 workers per month from January 2008 forward. Our projections assume that five percent of this increase will be unemployed at any given time, consistent with long-term CBO projections that the labor market will eventually return to a five percent unemployment rate.) In this figure, the point where the line for the cumulative job  change crosses the line tracing the cumulative growth in the labor force marks the year and month where the economy will have made up for both the jobs lost during the recession and the intervening growth in the labor force. If we assume job creation from July 2010 forward occurs at the pace set in the 2000s expansion, the economy will not catch up with the expanded labor force until April 2021.

Another way of looking at Figure 4 is to note that the line for cumulative job change crosses the cumulative change in the labor force at the point where the employment-to-population rate returns to what it was in December 2007. The figure assumes that the economy only needs to create jobs for 95 percent of the increase in the labor force, because CBO assumes that the economy will eventually reach and maintain a five percent unemployment rate. In 2007, the employment-to-population rate for the population 16 and over was 63.0 percent, almost 1.5 percentage points below the employment-to-population rate in 2000. Our projections, therefore, set a low bar for total employment relative to a standard that would require returning to the 2000 employment rate.

And keep in mind that the above scenario assumes that the economy adds 166,000 jobs a month each month, for just under 11 years straight! With the current economic prospects for the economy, in which companies continue to lay people off, and in which monthly NFP data is skewed drastically due to the ongoing side effects of the census, and where fiscal stimuli in fact encourage people to be unemployed and collect jobless insurance rather than work, this baseline assumption is ludicrous. The reality is that the economy will likely NEVER return to a December 2007 jobless rate, as proposed by El-Erian and his New Normal concept, just like the Fed will most likely NEVER raise rates in this latest iteration of pre-reset capitalism. And as the Fed's dual mandate of jobs and inflation is now tarnished beyond repair, what other valid justification is there to retain the Federal Reserve which does nothing but skew the market, and necessitate the need for constant regulation? The only way to return to efficient markets is to do away with regulation completely, however that would also mean an elimination of the Fed, and its most artificial concept of free lending to banks via the Discount Window, i.e., endless moral hazard for Wall Street's casinos. As long as the Fed persists, regulation is needed, which by definition creates perfect assymetries in the market, and sows the seeds for the next market crash. One can only dream that instead of lying to the population and to the Senate that all is well in the economy, that at today's Humphrey Hawkins meeting Bernanke will instead anounce the end of the Fed. Alas, that will require a revolution (non-violent or otherwise), as the moneyed interests will never allow a change in the status quo of such massive proportions. Of course, if more and more people realize the true sad state of the economy driven to its current predicament precisely by the Fed's constant one sided actions which favor a few millionaires at the expense of those that will be jobless for decades to come, perhaps this revolution is not that far off...

Full CEPR paper can be found here.

h/t Michael

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NOTW777's picture

all said while seals are clapping for the destruction of US by barney and dodd;  lets hear what the king has to say.

suteibu's picture

He's saying a lot of stuff.  What he's not saying is that he just took over commerce in this country.  Control financing, control commerce.

GIANTKILR's picture

I puked a little at that shamful display! What nerve!

jkruffin's picture

Is Benny Boy going to be televised?  If so, what time does he start lying on air?

Miles Kendig's picture

Jobs?  Work?  The only job all loyal Americans need to concern themselves with is to SPEND.  Spend like there is no tomorrow.  Spend to save everyone else.  After all, if China is still willing to trade worthless junk to us for worthless pieces of paper that keep Americans at home, spending then why try to produce anything but debt that can never be repaid....?

Duuude's picture


Plenty of work here...

All of these places exist just outside Washington in what amounts to the capital of an alternative geography of the United States, one defined by the concentration of top-secret government organizations and the companies that do work for them. This Fort Meade cluster is the largest of a dozen such clusters across the United States that are the nerve centers of Top Secret America and its 854,000 workers.


In the article top rankers say that nobody knows what anybody else is doing.



Miles Kendig's picture

There is another mega cluster in my area with the Lawrence-Livermore/Cal, Silicon Valley & SF fed action in full swing.  850K  hmmm.  That's way less than the number committed to supervised incarceration here in the US.

carbonmutant's picture

"supervised incarceration" is than an HR term?


Miles Kendig's picture

Yep.  And it applies to more than regular cube dwellers... be they voluntary, involuntary or indentured.

sethstorm's picture

The problem is that you have to have a sponsor to get a clearance.

Once you get that, it's fine.  Before that, it's a clusterfsck of "who you know".

Caviar Emptor's picture

Right on there bro. After the 9/11 disaster, with bodies still burning, the mayor of New York City (Rudy Giuliani) had this advice: Shop! He counseled us to patronize the restaurants and shops and carry on our normal economic activity (as did President Bush a day later) . Was it stupendous callousness? Nope. It was fear. Fear that the economy would collapse if we failed in our one and only mission as American citizens in the global economy: shop till you drop. Aspire to ever larger homes and SUVs, ever flatter TVs and snazzier jeans. 

In the moments after the World Trade Center fell, the Pentagon burned and America was under attack, the preoccupation of our high officials was that we not retrench from being the world's fattest consumers, pigs at the trough feasting on an omnivorous diet of anything and everything paid for with non-existant funds (credit). To Giuliani and Bush, the darkest thought was not so much about the victims. It was about the potnetial collapse of the economic bubble. 


Red Neck Repugnicant's picture

Perfect post!  I absolutely agree!

shop till you drop. Aspire to ever larger homes and SUVs, ever flatter TVs and snazzier jeans.

And shop 'til we drop, we did.  Keep Amurica rollin'.  Somewhere on YouTube there is a video of Bush telling everyone to "go shopping." 

It also speaks to why interest rates were keep too low for too long.  The primary concern the Bush administration had was that GDP would increase during his presidency.  If it couldn't happen naturally, they would artifically juice the economy with reckless, careless fiscal policy.  Whether it was interest rates, or war, or encouraging the use of exotic mortgages (see Greenspan), or the creation of an entirely phoney economy, the Bush administration was going to get their GDP numbers. 

And they did.  In the fucking ditch. 

Red Neck Repugnicant's picture


That's what your wife said when I stayed for a cigarette this morning.

You two really are soulmates.

DoctoRx's picture

Don't know about 2021, but a balanced economy involves rewarding savers and not parasites or speculators.  Too many imbalances and command and control aspects of this economy for our good IMHO . . .

Johnny Bravo's picture

What the article doesn't talk about is that eventually, all the baby boomers that CAUSED this economic crisis will start retiring.  That should help free up some jobs eventually, as the population has not grown faster than them for ages.

RockyRacoon's picture

That would be me, Johnny. 

And I had you in mind while plotting the ruination of the country.

Reductio ad Absurdum's picture

If you want to free up jobs Bravo, just stop Mexicans from pouring over the border.

The only reason the population of the U.S. is growing is due to Mexican migrants and their absurdly large families.

Johnny Bravo's picture

I should listen to your investment ideas then, since they worked out so great on a macroeconomic scale...

RockyRacoon's picture

They worked out great for me.

You are the one who is struggling.

At your age I had a full business started, after spending 4 years in the Air Force.

Keep in mind:  The fat lady has not sung, the big turd has yet to hit the fan.

'Tain't over 'til it's over....

tmosley's picture

I wouldn't count on them retiring.  Decimated 401Ks and being forced to prematurely dip into retirement savings for living expenses is taking its toll on most of the boomers.

Johnny Bravo's picture

Here is what I think would be the ideal solution, if I were in charge.

I'd let the baby boomers retire on social security earlier.  (Maybe 60 or 62ish)

Then, raise taxes on my generation to pay for the shortfall in revenue.  Sure, we'll pay more, but at least we'll be able to get jobs.
I'd be willing to pay more in taxes to create opportunity for my generation... 

ColonelCooper's picture


You're a student right?  With no undue disrespect, WTF do you know about taxes?

Federal Income Tax

State Income Tax

Payroll Tax

Capital Gains Tax

Property Tax

You're a bright kid, and you potentially have a good future ahead of you.  But until you get out there for real, and claw your way up to wherever it is you're gonna end up, you have no idea what taxes mean.

We don't need more taxes.  We need to quit spending money on bullshit that the government has no business meddling in.  This runs the gammet from porkbarrel to foreign policy.  We are taxed enough.  Even if I agreed with your principle, how are you going to fund the $109,000,000,000,000 in liabilities if you let the biggest percentage of them off the hook right now?

Epic Fail on that one.


sgt_doom's picture

Sorry, Johnny Bravo, but you've got it all wrong.

Firstly, during a recession (or really another Great Depression), one doesn't raise taxes -- although restoring taxes on the super-rich is in order (from the Bush tax cuts, and corporate non-payment of taxes).

Next, comes tax recovery, since over 70 percent of American-based multinationals and corporation pay no federal taxes (via profit laundering, profit shifting, transfer pricing, offshore hidden capital, etc., etc.).

Reinstitute what Bush wrought: put back the "high-roller division" in the IRS -- which Bush abolished, and was responsible for the greatest tax recovery on high net worth individuals and corporations.  Also, that administration eviscerated the SEC's risk management section, which was 100 strong, and reduced to one body.

Like your idea about early retirement, but it may be good for a temp fix, but the entire system be rotten, Johnny me boyo!

Moric's picture

Just curious, but when exactly were baby boomers going to retire?

firstdivision's picture

You need to work on your delivery on your jokes.

Miles Kendig's picture

60..  No, 62.  OOps, 65.  Strike that, 67.  Damn, there is no money left so the boomers gotta keep slaving away at Wal-Mart greeting all of the under 50's coming in to buy worthless Chinese made crap.

PC Load Letter's picture

Kinda hard to save when you don't have a job and are in the process of losing your house.....

hedgeless_horseman's picture

Tyler: "I know who you are and where you live PC Load Letter, if you're not employed and on your way to saving 20% of your income in 3 weeks I will find you and kill you. Now go home..."

PC Load Letter stopped surfing the web and ran away in tears.

Tyler: "Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of PC Load Letter's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted."

BlackBeard's picture

Nice.  The monkeys still use straight lines to project non-linear data.

VK's picture

ROFL! Indeed, just wait till the next leg of the collapse phase kicks in. Unemployment is going to soar and then they can shove their linear analysis up their proverbial behinds. Fraud is not conducive to economic growth. ZIRP is not conducive to savings. Farcism is not conducive for confidence. The titanic is sinking.

Mont Bleu's picture

What a serious fallacy to compare expected recovery with post-2000 recovery rates.

matthylland's picture

like a lost decade...where have we seen that before?

JLee2027's picture

Exactly.  The Lost Decade may have been tolerated by the Japanese, but it won't fly here.  

Throw the bums out.

Johnny Bravo's picture

The difference is that the Japanese actually have a sense of duty to their society.

Instead of paying CEOs 80 bajillion dollars for laying off workers, it is considered a shame to fire workers in Japan.

Maybe that's why despite low economic growth they have an unemployment rate of 5%, which is normal.

sethstorm's picture

The United States had that in large amounts until businesses figured that they were better off screwing their fellow citizens.  The Japanese had very unique circumstances that gave them both US-inspired industry and their sense of duty. 

But don't tell that to the Chinese immigrants on contract labor that just assembled some latte-drinking person's Prius.  They might revolt and die in a huge "accident".

Johnny Bravo's picture

I think it was pretty common in the United States until the "Fuck Everybody Else, be Selfish"  message of Ronald Reagan.

RockyRacoon's picture

76 economists, academics, gold analysts and market commentators who have developed sound rationale as to why gold could quite possibly go to a parabolic top of at least $2,500 an ounce to even as much as an unimaginable $15,000 before the bubble finally pops!

NOTW777's picture

"keep in mind that the above scenario assumes that the economy adds 166,000 jobs a month each month, for just under 11 years straight!"


sure thing

Bill Lumbergh's picture

These meetings are like bad reality television...every one knows the plot and admits the show is a waste of time but continues to watch on a regular basis anyway.

financeguru500's picture

Are you talking about scripted reality television? Where it acts like it is reality television but in fact it was pre-written and comes off looking like acting skills of a daytime soap opera.

Yeah, i feel myself wondering why I even pay attention to these sort of things.

crzyhun's picture

Yahhhh, good to see and consult the Bob's on this jobs thing. They know what's up.