Today in Labor History: Big job loss announced this day in 2008

On Dec. 5, 2008 the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the economy had shed 520,000 jobs the month before as the country continued to wallow in the misery of the peak of the Great Recession.

Four years ago today the United States was still reeling under the worst part of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression and it wasn’t going to let up – even a bit – until at least June of 2009.

An updated report issued last week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the deep hole into which the American economy sank would have been even far deeper without the fiscal stimulus policies enacted by the Obama Administration in2009.

For the last 13 quarters the economy has been growing, although at a very modest pace, the report notes.

The pace of monthly job losses slowed dramatically soon after the Recovery Act was passed in February, 2009. Private employers added 5 million jobs to their payrolls in the last 32 months, an average of 155,000 jobs a month. In October the number of jobs added was 184,000.

The jobs deficit from this recession is much larger than those in previous recessions. The economy would have to create an average of 176,000 jobs each month for the next two years just to return to the December 2007 level of employment – and even more to restore full employment, since the population and potential labor force, the report says, are now larger.

At one point during this recession there were 7 or 8 people looking for jobs for every job opening. Although that problem has lessened, the imbalance remains high. In September, 2012, 12.1 million workers were officially unemployed but there were only 3.6 million job openings.

Photo: Gabe Falsetta/


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Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.