Break the Silence on the Unemployment Problem by John B. Taylor

In his inaugural address, President Obama said that “An economic recovery has begun.” It was an applause line. The line is correct of course, but it is really nothing to applaud. As economists define it, the recovery began nearly four years ago when the 2007-2009 recession ended in June 2009. So we have had a recovery for most of the Obama Administration. The problem is that it is a recovery in name only, one of the weakest recoveries in American history. Growth has been about 2 percent since the recovery began and median household income has declined. That is far less economic growth than recoveries following deep recessions with financial crises in American history.

This slow recovery has left unemployment tragically high in most parts of the country. In the San Francisco Bay Area where I live we are relatively lucky. In San Francisco the unemployment rate is 6.7%. The rate is 7.8 % in the country as a whole, and 9.8 % in the state as a whole. In the nearby central valley—cities like Yuba City, Modesto, Merced, Fresno—it’s about 15%, and down south in El Centro California it’s 27%.

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