Top 20 Stories of 2013 — No. 3: The Unbearable Slowness of the Jobs Recovery

By Mary Silver, Epoch Times
December 30, 2013 Updated: December 30, 2013

The Great Recession knocked out more jobs than any other downturn since World War II, and it’s taking longer to get them back than it did after the previous two recessions, according to Pew Research Center.

The 2008 crash took 8.7 million jobs, or 6.3 percent of the pre-recession peak payroll, according to Pew, and the effects are lingering into 2014, despite encouraging employment numbers in November.

The unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced. 

As the U.S. job market gradually improves, it’s also evolving, with winners and losers.

Warehouses and trucking companies are doing more holiday hiring than the stores they’re working for.

Factory workers are getting more overtime, while pay is nearly flat for hotel and restaurant employees. Retirement-age Americans are staying on the job.

Longer Out of Work

For people who’ve been out of work for more than six months, the outlook has gone from painful to desperate.

Even as the number of unemployed Americans has fallen nearly 350,000 in the past two months, the ranks of the long-term unemployed have barely budged. They number about 4.1 million, and they’re not catching many breaks. 

Worse, companies are shying away from hiring workers with extended gaps in their résumés.

More than 37 percent of unemployed Americans in November have been out of work for half a year or more, a higher proportion than in October. If most of these Americans continue to be viewed as unemployable, that trend will hold back the economy’s growth into 2014.

More Part-Timers, but Not by Choice

The slow growth of jobs means more people working part time who want to work full time, which could be “a cause of concern for both workers and employers, as well as those interested in the long-term productivity and efficiency of the U.S. economy,” said researcher Rebecca Glauber, assistant professor of sociology and a faculty fellow at the Carsey Institute, in a statement. 

Glauber found that the single largest five-year increase in involuntary part-time employment since the 1970s occurred between 2007 and 2012. The involuntary part-time employment rate more than doubled from 2007 to 2012.

Poverty on the Rise

The slow jobs recovery also means more people in poverty, and more hunger. Some of the long-term unemployed may fall into poverty permanently. 

The overall poverty rate rose after the 2008 crash and has not fallen to pre-recession levels, according to the census. 

In 2012, the official poverty rate was 15.0 percent, with 46.5 million people in poverty. This was up 2.5 percentage points from 2007, the year before the most recent recession, according to the census.

For the second year in a row, the number of people in poverty and the official poverty rate have not budged.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.