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How bad it was

It now has been eight years since the start of the Great Recession. In some ways, the global financial crisis and the economic calamity it triggered seem like ancient history; in other ways, the pain they caused is still with us.

Indeed, a recent survey conducted by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute revealed that nearly three-quarters of Americans think the recession has not ended.

Perhaps the best explanation for this pessimism is the simplest one: The recession that officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 was as bad as it’s often described—the worst economic downturn in this country since the Great Depression—and its aftereffects are very real.

The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities last week posted online a series of charts illustrating the course and legacy of the Great Recession. The data speak loudly.

From the start of the downturn in December 2007 until early 2010, the U.S. economy lost nearly 9 million jobs. The job toll of the other postwar recessions—1981-82, 1990-91 and 2001—did not even come close in terms of severity or duration. Non-farm payroll employment now is some 5 million jobs higher than it was when the Great Recession began, but the recovery took more than six years.

The picture locally is very similar to the nation as a whole, Federal Reserve Bank data show. At the start of the recession, total non-farm employment here was around 522,000 people; it fell to 508,600 in 2009 and did not fully recover until 2014.

The civilian labor force here also dropped during and after the recession, and it has yet to return to its previous level.

The 2008 TARP financial stabilization measure and the 2009 stimulus package kept the recession from doing even more damage, CBPP researchers believe. That view is not shared by more conservative economists.

All would agree, however, that understanding the causes of the Great Recession is the first step in preventing another one.

1/22/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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