The Center's work on 'Economic Recovery Watch' Issues


Bernanke, Bernstein, et al. on Full Employment

March 30, 2015 at 3:06 pm

CBPP’s Full Employment Project hosted an event today featuring a keynote speech by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and a discussion of leading economists about policies that can help restore and maintain full employment.  Click here for the video.

In conjunction with this event, we released five papers by economists on how to start the nation on a path back to full employment:

State and Local Jobs Fell in January

February 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm

While today’s jobs report shows that the economy added jobs at a healthy pace in January, job growth could have been even stronger if states and localities hadn’t cut 4,000 positions.

About a third of the lost jobs were for teachers and others working in K-12 schools, preliminary data suggest.  The rest were non-education jobs at the state level, a category that includes state police, public health employees, and child protective workers.

The January job losses further slowed the already very weak recovery for state and local government jobs.  Over the last six months, states and localities have added jobs at a pace that’s only one-eighth the pace of total job growth nationally.  Part of the problem is recent tax cuts in states like Kansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, which make it harder for a state to maintain public services.

Despite a modest improvement since bottoming out in mid-2013, state and local government jobs are still down 635,000 from their August 2008 peak.  (See chart.)  Nationally, the number of jobs returned to pre-recession levels last spring, but states and localities have added back less than one-fifth of the jobs they cut after the recession took hold.

School Jobs Up in December But Still Far From Recovered

January 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm


Local school districts added 2,000 jobs for teachers, principals, and other employees in December, today’s jobs report shows, continuing schools’ painfully slow recovery from the recession.

Yet schools still have a long way to go before they leave the recession behind.  School districts nationally employ 268,000 fewer workers than in the fall of 2008, the first full school year after the recession started — even as the number of students has risen by about 485,000. (See chart.)

Strong schools are a crucial building block of a healthy economy, and states and localities should make the investments necessary to rebuild and strengthen them.  Last month’s modest gain is good news but far from what’s needed.

Bernstein on Five Years of Economic Recovery

July 15, 2014 at 3:22 pm

CBPP Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein testified today before the Joint Economic Committee on the progress that has been made in repairing the U.S. economy over the first five years of the recovery from the Great Recession.

Bernstein explained:

When markets fail as massively as they did in the late 2000s, quick and forceful action clearly helps offset the damage.  But to stop at stabilization, instead of rebuilding jobs and incomes that were lost over the downturn is a serious policy mistake, one that has proven to be extremely costly to working families. . . . [T]here is time to build on the recent momentum we’ve seen, particularly in the job market.

Bernstein pointed out that while there are many positive attributes to the current recovery, especially in relation to the depth of the previous recession, it is clearly not yet reaching everyone:

  • Thanks in part to countercyclical policies legislated by Congress in 2009, along with aggressive monetary policy by the Federal Reserve, significant progress has been made in repairing the damage done by the uniquely deep recession that began in late 2007.
  • These gains, while incomplete, are evident in the job market, particularly in the recent acceleration in job growth and decline in unemployment.  After 52 consecutive months of net private sector job growth, non-government employment is up 9.7 million jobs since early 2010.
  • Moreover, employment growth has accelerated in recent months.  Payrolls added 1.4 million jobs in the first half of this year, their strongest six-month growth period since late 1999.

  • Un- and underemployment are both down significantly over the recovery, as are other slack metrics that rose sharply in the downturn, including long-term unemployment and involuntary part-time work.  While part of the decline in unemployment was due to labor force exits, this negative trend has also stabilized in recent months.
  • Private payrolls grew about 3 percent faster over the first five years of this recovery compared to the prior recovery, despite the fact that the recession that preceded this expansion was much deeper in terms of lost output and much longer lasting than the downturn that preceded the 2000s expansion.  The private sector added 3.4 million more jobs in the first five years of this recovery than were added in the last one.
  • Yet, slack remains in the job market and wage growth has generally not yet accelerated; real median household income, after falling sharply by around 10 percent in the downturn, is up about 3 percent over the past few years, largely due to more work at flat real earnings.  Corporate profitability and financial market returns, on the other hand, have more than recovered their losses.

Bernstein warned that policymakers cannot stop at stabilization. To prolong and strengthen the recovery, he recommended investing in infrastructure and increasing the federal minimum wage.

Click here for Bernstein’s full testimony.

Big Gains for State and Local Employment in June

July 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm

State and local government employment had a big month in June, rising by 24,000 jobs according to today’s jobs report.  Most of the gains came in K-12 school districts, which added 18,000 jobs.

The number of state and local public employees has been trending upward since the end of 2012 (see chart), with job growth accelerating since the start of 2014.  Still, states and localities have 425,000  fewer public employees — teachers, police officers, social workers, and so on — than when the recession started, even as the need for public services has continued to grow.