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Labor Market Left Behind: Evidence Shows that Post-Recession Economy has not Turned into a Recovery for Workers

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Although the recent recession was officially declared over as of November 2001, on Labor Day 2003 the job market remains decidedly weak. Unemployment is high and, instead of coming down in the nascent recovery, it has climbed from 5.6% at the recession's end to 6.2% in July 2003 (the most recent data available). Tracking the nation's payrolls reveals the worst hiring slump since the Great Depression. And the weak labor market is not just a problem for those without jobs--wages have been growing more slowly for most workers and even falling in real terms for some.

How could it be that the nation's economy is supposedly in recovery yet the job market is much weaker now than when the recession ended? The explanation has something to do with the criteria used to determine when a recession ends, but the main point is that, although the economy is expanding, it is doing so at too slow a rate to quickly lower unemployment or generate the needed job growth.