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The Most Alarming Employment Statistic

From the unemployment story in The New York Times:

The losses for June lifted net jobs shed since the beginning of the recession to 6.5 million — equal to the net job gain over the previous nine years.

“This is the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all jobs growth from the previous business cycle,” Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said in a research note. She called this fact “a devastating benchmark for the workers of this country and a testament to both the enormity of the current crisis and to the extreme weakness of jobs growth from 2000 to 2007.”

You kind of think of the business cycle as a wave that oscillates around a line that trends upward, so that one trough is higher than the next one, even if it's the lowpoint for that particular cycle. And, indeed, that's how it's been since World War II. Well, apparently not any more. At least not for the labor market. (It would be downright apocalyptic if that were the case for GDP.)

--Noam Scheiber