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BPEA | 2004 No. 2

What Happened to the Great U.S. Job Machine? The Role of Trade and Electronic Offshoring

discussants: Daniel E. Sichel and
Headshot of Dan Sichel
Daniel E. Sichel Professor of Economics - Wellesley College
Frank Levy

2004, No. 2


THE BUSINESS CYCLE recovery of the past few years has been an unusual
one. In particular, payroll employment since the trough of the 2001 recession
has been remarkably weak compared with previous recessions—a
point illustrated in figure 1.2 The decline in payroll employment from the
peak in March 2001 to the trough in November of the same year was modest,
but employment continued to fall for the next twenty-one months,
ending up just over a million jobs below the trough before starting to recover. This contrasts with most previous recessions, in which job
growth following the trough was strong. The aftermath of the previous
recession, that of 1990–91, was also characterized by relatively weak job
performance, as figure 1 also shows. But the jobs picture since 2001 has
been much weaker even than that “jobless recovery.”