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Graphic Economics

A collection of graphic representations of data by CEPR researchers on important economic issues.

The Real Rate of Recovery, April 2015 Print

April 7, 2015

Many media outlets cite the official unemployment rate – the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ U-3 unemployment rate – when reporting on the recovery in the jobs market. This rate stood at 5.0 percent in December 2007 (the first month of the recession) and rose to a high of 10.0 percent in October 2009; it has since fallen to 5.5 percent as of March 2015. Relative to its peak, the unemployment rate has made up 90 percent of the ground lost between December 2007 and October 2009. However, there are good reasons to think that the unemployment rate overstates the degree of recovery in the job market. This series of five measures provide insights on employment and unemployment that aren’t captured by the official unemployment rate.

Incorporating new data for March 2015, three of the five measures showed improvement.

Jobless Rate

The jobless rate takes account of all Americans who say they would like a job, regardless of whether they are classified as "unemployed" or not.

  • December 2007 Jobless Rate: 7.76 percent
  • Peak: In both October and December of 2009, the jobless rate hit a high of 13.36 percent
  • March 2015 Jobless Rate: 9.15 percent
  • Percent Recovered: 75.2 percent

Jobless Rate

Prime-Age EPOP Ratio

The prime-age EPOP ratio measures the percentage of Americans aged 25 to 54 who are employed.

  • December 2007 Prime-Age EPOP Ratio: 79.7 percent
  • Trough: In both December of 2009 and November of 2010, the prime-age EPOP ratio hit lows of 74.8 percent. In both instances, the prime-age EPOP ratio recovered slightly before falling again. The last significant trough came in September and October of 2011, when the prime-age EPOP ratio fell to 74.9 percent.
  • March 2015 Prime-Age EPOP Ratio: 77.2 percent
  • Percent Recovered: 49.0 percent

 Prime-Age EPOP Ratio

Age-Adjusted EPOP Ratio

The age-adjusted EPOP ratio measures the percentage of Americans that would be employed if the age distribution of the population hadn’t changed since December of 2007.

  • December 2007 Age-Adjusted EPOP Ratio: 62.79 percent
  • Trough: In December of 2009, the age-adjusted EPOP ratio fell to a low of 58.62 percent.
  • March 2015 Age-Adjusted EPOP Ratio: 61.12 percent
  • Percent Recovered: 60.0 percent

Age-Adjusted EPOP Ratio 

Involuntary Part-Time Employment

Involuntary part-time employment, as a percentage of total employment, shows the percentage of Americans who work part-time for economic reasons but who would like to work full-time.

  • December 2007 Involuntary Part-Time Employment Percentage: 3.16 percent
  • Peak: In March of 2010, involuntary part-time employment hit a high of 6.65 percent of total employment
  • March 2015 Involuntary Part-Time Employment Percentage: 4.52 percent
  • Percent Recovered: 61.0 percent

 Involuntary Part-Time Employment

Long-Term Unemployment

Long-term unemployment as a percentage of total unemployment shows us the share of unemployed Americans who have been out-of-work for 27 weeks or more.

  • December 2007 Long-Term Unemployment Percentage: 17.4 percent
  • Peak: In April 2010, long-term unemployment peaked at of 45.5 percent of all unemployment.
  • March 2015 Long-Term Unemployment Percentage: 29.8 percent
  • Percent Recovered: 55.9 percent

Long-Term Unemployment

Part-Time Employment Since January of 2014 Print

April 3, 2015

This month's employment data shows that voluntary part-time employment fell slightly in March, but is still up by more than 900,000 (at 5.0 percent) from it level of two years ago. Involuntary part-time rose slightly in March, but is down by almost 1.0 million from its level of two years ago. This is a possible dividend of the end of health-care-related job lock due to the Affordable Care Act.


The Latest Jobs Report and Wage Growth Print

March 6, 2015

Reported wage growth for February was weak, as expected, following a large reported gain in January. Taking the average for the last three months compared to the prior three months, the annual rate of growth was just 1.8 percent, down from 2.0 percent over the last year. The data on wage growth continue to indicate there is still a large amount of slack in the labor market. There is some evidence of more rapid wage growth in the lowest paying sectors, which is to be expected as workers can increasingly find better jobs elsewhere, but higher-paying sectors continue to show very weak wage growth.



Labor Force Participation Rate, Men and Women, Age 25-54 Print

February 6, 2015

Labor force participation rates of prime age workers are still far below pre-recession levels.

While the unemployment rate edged up, the overall EPOP also rose, hitting 59.3 percent, a new high for the recovery. However this is still 3.7 percentage points below the average for the year before the recession. Contrary to what is frequently claimed, most of this decline is due to prime age workers (ages 25-54) dropping out of the labor force. That reversed the pre-recession trend, in which the percentage of both prime age men and women in the labor force had been rising. The number of people involuntarily working part-time was little changed from December but was 453,000 below its year-ago level. Voluntary part-time is up by 535,000 from a year ago. Another positive item was that the percentage of unemployment due to people voluntarily quitting their jobs hit a recovery high of 9.5 percent. This is still far below the rates of more than 11 percent before the downturn and more than 14 percent in the 1990s boom.


Decline in Military Spending Contributes to Slowdown in GDP Growth Print

January 30, 2015

The slowdown in fourth quarter GDP was predictable as third quarter growth was driven in part by a 16.0 percent jump in military spending. Military spending is highly erratic and sharp swings are usually reversed, as was the case in this quarter.


More in this month's GDP Byte.

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