The jobless rate is at a scary and intimidating 8.9%, which leaves me wondering just how high it will get. Economists say it's better than what they expected, since "only" 539,000 jobs were cut, which is a huge decrease from the previous few months, and the least since October. But previous months payroll numbers, unemployment figures, and layoff numbers continue to be revised to the negative end, and that is what really pushed the 8.9% rate to where it stands as of right now. So, without the drop of nearly 100,000 maintained jobs last month, the rate would probably be 9% or closer to 9% anyway. It's the highest unemployment rate in 25 years.
25 years? Well, that actually doesn't sound as bad, does it? Not with all the talk of "the greatest since The Great Depression."
It does seem with spring that a turnaround has started to blossom. (More puns to come, I promise.) And now that we're seeing these 'green chutes' (told you...) it seems that the suddenly optimistic and steadfast mood that began to prevail in American citizens as soon as the temperature rose and the snow melted, might signal the recovery is beginning.
We're still in the recession, though, and they still expect the unemployment number to rise higher from where it is right now. With that in mind, you have to wonder how high it will go and if it will become worse than "in the past 25 years." That's the early-to-mid 1980s recession that was pretty serious, but there was also a pretty serious recession, and one with a more protracted recovery, in the mid-1970s. Is that what we're looking at now?
In the 1980s, the unemployment rate rose to more than 10%, I think 10.3% is the highest it registered, which is the highest since WWII, but there was a sharper decline of jobs in the 1970s, and a slower rebound.
If our economy can stabilize later this year, jobs can be added much quicker than economists expect (mirroring the rapid-fire job hirings after the end of the 1990s and early 2000s recessions), and the unemployment rate can stay below 10.3% (and hopefully 10% though that looks further away from reality now...) then perhaps America can come out of this recession without having to label it as "The Great Recession," or to continually refer to it as the worst since The Great Depression. Perhaps we can call it the 'boom, bust, boom recession' in which riches went to rags and suddenly back to riches again in only a four-five year period. Obviously that would be ideal, and probably too optimistic.
But it's suddenly a different tune for me...I remember in late January and early February when the blogosphere was rampant with panic and depression. I remember reading one blog in particular saying job losses and the unemployment rate would continue upwards for all of 2009 and most of 2010, bottoming out somewhere close to the 25% in The Great Depression, and possibly surpassing it. A lot of these incredibly intelligent economists said with the hoarding, horrible downward revisions in orders and activity, the rampant bankruptcies and uncertainties surrounding huge institutions, banks and manufacturers, that we should expect nearly every large company in the US to fail and a trickle effect would take place with most of the small businesses that rely on the large businesses. Eventually we would not be able to borrow money from other countries to finance things like unemployment insurance, food stamps, and reinvestments into our economy, and the mood of the nation would dissolve into pure depression.
It seemed we would only be seeing cloudy and rainy days from now on and that the sun would never shine again. Some suggested we understand that this recession will be mankind's catastrophe (around the time Iceland went bankrupt), and that there is no recovery from it for a generation, at least. They expected many to return to simpler lifestyles of farming in remote locations, cities to become outlaw towns of disease and pestilence, and for our governments and leaders to begin massive wars and efforts that would ultimately lead nowhere and eventually plunge the world off one of its own cliffs.
Seems the mood of a nation had changed dramatically in less than five months. If we can change this quickly in five months, can we change completely, and go back to our happy, more secure lifestyles in double this time? I want to see where we are 10 months from now. That's the beginning of March in 2010. By then, I want to see jobs added far outpace jobs lost (the unemployment rate shrink by a percentage every month instead of increase), a return of many Americans to frivolity, and the fear and trepidation of an economy on the brink of widespread depression and dissolution to be only a nightmare.