Thanks to Joe Weisenthal and Calculated Risk for providing the chart above that tells the tale of our postwar recessions — and shows how the "recovery" we're currently "in" has stacked up against previous bouncebacks.
Note the key visual distinction between job losses and additions in the recessions and recoveries of 1990, 2001, and 2007; and all the previous recessions and recoveries. 1990 and 2001 may not have been as severe as some of the dips that preceded them, but the pace of recovery was slower. Pre-1990 job downturns were typically followed by quick spikes back to pre-recession peaks.
2007 is obviously the Big Boy. We plunged below the previous nadir, set in 1948 — and are currently suffering through the same sluggish recovery pattern that we saw in '90 and '01. However, in those recessions, we never fell below a 2 percent employment loss, so creeping back wasn't as onerous.
This time around, we dropped 6.5 percent. And we're currently creeping back.
You could say that we could have seen thing coming. We're on out third downturn with this recovery pattern. It's just that we probably didn't expect to fall below the downturns of '48 and '57.