Ironically, according to the economists (who didn’t know it at the time), the recession ended three years ago in June 2009 one month before I received my layoff notice. Everything since then has been economic expansion (aka ‘Recovery’) albeit a somewhat slow, uneven, and plagued by fits and starts recovery. The nature of the economic recovery is such that many areas of the country, and many individuals, have not experienced it. Many of us personally do not feel the recession is over.
This feeling is borne out by the numbers – household income in the two years after the recession ended actually fell more (more than double) than it did during the recession. Yes, that’s right – household income fell 3.2% during the recession (December 2007 to June 2009) and then an additional 6.7% in the following two years. The average American family lost nearly 40% of its wealth during the recession and although there has been some rebound in the first quarter of 2012 most have not nearly recovered.
There are still 5.4 million Americans among the counted long-term unemployed and over 17 million in the uncounted categories. Those are the folks who are under-employed, have given up looking for work, who have fallen off the unemployment benefit rolls and whose lack of employment is not included in the official unemployment rate. One of the reasons the official unemployment rate has fallen (at 8.2% in May 2012) is the number of people counted as in the labor force has also fallen – to a mere 63% of the American population, the lowest rate since 1981. The ‘real’ unemployment rate was 14.5% in April 2012.
The unemployed face many challenges. Employers discriminate against them – so much so and so obviously that a number of municipalities have enacted legislation against such discrimination. They are beset by worries, financial difficulties, and guilt at not being able to support their families. The job numbers, while in the positive, are just too small to make a significant dent in the jobless rate, particularly for the long term jobless, many of whom, like us, have lost more than their jobs. These losses include material possessions, homes, credit ratings, self-esteem, relationships, and sometimes even lives. Suicides and murder/suicides have increased among the unemployed as despondent and hopeless people look for but cannot find a way out of their difficulties. According to an article published a year ago “Unemployed people are two to three times more likely to commit suicide, researchers estimate, and the risk rises the longer someone remains jobless.”
The recession may be over but the effects are lingering on.