Have a look at the chart above. It overlays data from the 11 post-World War II recessions and shows how long it took to recover the jobs lost during each period. The outlier is 2007 which, according to the chart above, is still below its previous employment level.
Last week's employment report brought private sector employment back above 116 million, and we now have more people working in the private sector than we did during the previous high in January 2008. During the recession, and not too long after, the private sector shed 8.8 million jobs. Since then, it has added 8.9 million.
So why isn't the line representing the current recovery above zero? Blame government firing.
States have been laying off government workers: police officers, firefighters, teachers, road construction workers, etc. The federal government has also been lagging behind its usual pace of post-recession hiring, and there are still 535,000 fewer government jobs than there were at the beginning of the recession.
If the government was hiring like it did during other post-recession recoveries, the unemployment rate would be under 6 percent and gross domestic product would be considerably higher.
This is the legacy of ill-advised austerity during a post-recession recovery period.
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(Barry Ritholtz writes about finance, the economy and the business world for Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @Ritholtz.)
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