Reassessing the Economic Recovery

What are the implications of all the recent economic reports (January employment, 4th quarter GDP, CBO’s downward revision of potential GDP) for an assessment of the recovery from the 2007-09 recession? In my view, they still indicate a very weak recovery. As I have argued, a good standard of comparison for this recovery is the most recent recovery from a very deep recession, namely the one that ended in 1982, and I have offered a series of charts to make the comparison easy and objective. Here are updates of those charts based on the latest data.

The first chart shows real GDP during the 10 quarters since the end of the 2007-2009 recession along with CBOs recently revised estimate of potential GDP. The chart clearly shows that the economy has yet to recover back to its potential. The only real difference from earlier assessments is that CBO has slightly lowered its estimate of potential.

For comparison, the next chart shows the recovery back to potential in the 10 quarters following the 1981-82 recession. The difference between the two charts is striking, and is why one can say that the current recovery is a recovery in name only.

It is also helpful to compare economic growth rates during the two recoveries as shown in the next chart. Growth averaged 2.4 percent in the recent 10 quarters compared with 5.9 percent in the 1980s recovery.

Finally, compare the employment-to-population ratio in the two recoveries as in the next chart. It shows that even with the better news on employment and the unemployment rate, the percentage of the working age population that is actually working is not rising.

About John B. Taylor 117 Articles

Affiliation: Stanford University

John B. Taylor is the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University and the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He formerly served as the director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where he is now a senior fellow, and he was founding director of Stanford's Introductory Economics Center.

Taylor’s academic fields of expertise are macroeconomics, monetary economics, and international economics. He is known for his research on the foundations of modern monetary theory and policy, which has been applied by central banks and financial market analysts around the world. He has an active interest in public policy. Taylor is currently a member of the California Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, where he also previously served from 1996 to 1998. In the past, he served as senior economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1976 to 1977, as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1989 to 1991. He was also a member of the Congressional Budget Office's Panel of Economic Advisers from 1995 to 2001.

For four years from 2001 to 2005, Taylor served as Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs where he was responsible for U.S. policies in international finance, which includes currency markets, trade in financial services, foreign investment, international debt and development, and oversight of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He was also responsible for coordinating financial policy with the G-7 countries, was chair of the working party on international macroeconomics at the OECD, and was a member of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. His book Global Financial Warriors: The Untold Story of International Finance in the Post-9/11 World chronicles his years as head of the international division at Treasury.

Taylor was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Award for his overall leadership in international finance at the U.S. Treasury. He was also awarded the Treasury Distinguished Service Award for designing and implementing the currency reforms in Iraq, and the Medal of the Republic of Uruguay for his work in resolving the 2002 financial crisis. In 2005, he was awarded the George P. Shultz Distinguished Public Service Award. Taylor has also won many teaching awards; he was awarded the Hoagland Prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching and the Rhodes Prize for his high teaching ratings in Stanford's introductory economics course. He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his research, and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society; he formerly served as vice president of the American Economic Association.

Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1984, Taylor held positions as professor of economics at Princeton University and Columbia University. Taylor received a B.A. in economics summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University in 1973.

Visit: John Taylor's Page, Blog

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