How Bad Is It? (Monday Edition)

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After I posted that scary chart from Nancy Pelosi’s office last Friday, a number of Swampland commenters asked for a broader historical perspective–and one that measures the slump in percentage terms, rather than raw job-loss numbers.

They ask, and Justin delivers, with the able assistance of TIME.com graphics wizard Feilding Cage. Here are comparisons to the nasty recessions of 1981-1982 and 1974-1975.:

six_recessions3

Justin’s conclusion:

What do we learn? So far the fall in employment is comparable to that in 1974-1975 and 1981-1982. If the comparison holds, the declines should end within the next four or five months. But we of course have no idea whether the comparison will hold. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Another lesson brought home by the chart is how weak the recovery from the 2001 recession was. It was a mild recession, but it took four years for employment to return to its February 2001 peak. Setting aside the worst-case scenario of a continued downward employment spiral that puts 1974-1975 and 1981-1982 to shame, a recession that combines a severity akin to that of 1974-1975 and 1981-1982 with a recovery as anemic as 2001-2002-2003-2004-2005 would be not a whole lotta fun.

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