The Corner

The Recession is Over?

My AEI colleague Mark Perry reports:

The U.S. economy reached a milestone in the fourth quarter of 2010 when $13.38 trillion (2005 dollars) worth of real gross domestic product was produced, the highest quarterly output ever recorded—surpassing the previous record of $13.36 trillion of GDP produced in the fourth quarter of 2007, when the recession started. Measured by the total amount of goods and services produced in the United States, the economy has now made a full and complete recovery from the Great Recession and real GDP is slightly above, by 0.14 percent, its pre-recession level (see chart below).

He then adds:


What’s even more striking though is that the U.S. economy was able to produce $13.38 trillion of real output last quarter with only 139 million employees, compared to the more than 146 million Americans who were working in the fourth quarter of 2007 to produce slightly less output, as AEI’s Alex Pollock recently observed. The chart above shows that real output in the United States is now 0.14 percent higher than three years ago, but is being produced with almost 5 percent, or 7.2 million, fewer workers!

One benefit of the long and painful recession is that companies and organizations have figured out how to become more efficient and “do more with less,” and that is reflected in the fact that GDP per U.S. worker went from $91,365 (in 2005 dollars) in the fourth quarter of 2007 to $96,231 in the fourth quarter of 2010, an increase in worker productivity of 5.32 percent. Perhaps those impressive gains in labor productivity over the last several years help explain why we are now experiencing a “jobless recovery” with a stubbornly high unemployment rate—companies have been able to expand output without hiring very many, if any, additional workers.


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