Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Job Losses and The Duration of the Current Recession

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Above is a chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It shows total number of establishment jobs starting in 1945 -- essentially right after WWII. Note that we can break this graph down into a few different time periods. Let's look at each of these two eras with an eye to only one data point: job losses and recessions.

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The big period of job losses on this chart occurred in 1957 - 1958 era. According to the NBER, there was an expansion from May '54 to August '57 and a recession from August '57 to April '58. The expansion created 4,163,000 jobs while the subsequent recession destroyed 2,216,000 jobs. In other words, the recession destroyed 53.23% of the jobs created during the expansion.

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The sole reason for including the above graph is this: notice there are no periods where job destruction was more than 53% in the above example.

Above is the remainder of the chart. Again, note the job destruction is nowhere near the 53% level mentioned above.

OK -- so where am I going with this? The best read on total establishment job creation during the latest expansion is 7.2 million jobs. So far the economy has lost 1,179,000 jobs or 16.66%. So let's assume we see a rate of job destruction on parallel with the worst rate in the last 60 years. That would bring total job destruction to 3.6 million.

Now -- remember that we've already lost 1.2 million jobs. This means we have an addition 2.4 million to go. At a 240,000/month clip that means we've got 10 months of heavy job losses left. That places the end of the news of terrible job losses somewhere next summer. And that assumes we'll see a rate of job destruction on par with the worst rate of the last 60 years.

Let me add on final caveat: there are no guarantees in economics. Remember -- home prices always go up? Yeah, me too. The point is the above analysis could be off for a variety of reasons. All I'm trying to do is get a read of when the recession will be over.