Just How Bad Is This Recession? Look At The Scary, Scary Graph

Nancy Pelosi wants to scare the crap out of you, so her office has released the above scary graph, which we bring to you by way of Time’s Swampland blog.

Here’s what Pelosi’s office has to say about their work. (The graph uses “actual job-loss data,” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

This chart compares the job loss so far in this recession to job losses in the 1990-1991 recession and the 2001 recession — showing how dramatic and unprecedented the job loss over the last 13 months has been. Over the last 13 months, our economy has lost a total of 3.6 million jobs – and continuing job losses in the next few months are predicted.

By comparison, we lost a total of 1.6 million jobs in the 1990-1991 recession, before the economy began turning around and jobs began increasing; and we lost a total of 2.7 million jobs in the 2001 recession, before the economy began turning around and jobs began increasing.

Time’s readers quickly got to work debunking the graph for not taking into account the difference in population, though it seems that they ultimately concluded that this recession is the worst since 1974-1975, and may likely be even crappier than that.

What do you think? What’s that? It’s so hard to understand you when you’ve got your hands shoved in your mouths to stop the screams from escaping.

How Bad Is It? [Time via Buzzfeed]
MORE: How Bad Is It? [Time]


Edit Your Comment

  1. hals000 says:

    Ok, is anyone else confused as to what this graph illustrates? Or am I just stupid?

    • Atticka says:


      number of jobs lost over time during a “recession” period compared to previous recessions.

      The graph shows a tremendous amount of jobs lost over a short period of time as compared to the recessions in 1990 and 2001.

    • Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

      @hals000: Seems to be indexed to “month zero” as the peak, then shows the number (and speed) of job losses for three recessions. HTH

      See also:

      • Skankingmike says:

        @Ash78: So if we were to some how bring about another ice age we would get rid of pirates..

        I would like to see a graph that depicts temperature to ninja’s please.

        • Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

          @Skankingmike: Interesting thought. The graph appears a little outdated, since it doesn’t account for the recent influx of Somali pirates since the year 2000. But your ice age comment is right on, and I think it’s proof positive that we need to tackle global warming asap.

          • Skankingmike says:

            @Ash78: I for one think we should invest in giant corks to plug up volcanoes they are horrible at emitting green house gasses.

            I’m just afraid their lobbyists are too strong in Washington.

        • Kogenta says:

          @Skankingmike: Are we reading the same graph? Seems to me that as temp rises, pirates decrease (see the y2k dot and how it says 17 pirates at 15.9C?)

          In all seriousness though, the article’s graph would be much better if it also included a graph that showed percent jobs lost rather than actual number. Total losses is all well and everything, but if the population of eligable workers say trippled (exagerating) compared to the last recession, well, it makes a difference.

          I will admit that does look quite sharp regardless of how many more people there are in the workforce.

          • Skankingmike says:

            @Kogenta: yea graphs go up and numbers go down!

            but see ash78’s comment on how it doesn’t show the true Somalian pirates or even Singapore’s.

        • Elcheecho says:

          @Skankingmike: @Ash78: is it just me, or does the number of pirates increase as temperatures decrease?

        • Gann says:

          @Skankingmike: You can’t graph ninjas.

      • j-o-h-n says:

        @Ash78: Thank god for the Somali’s then!

      • Shadowman615 says:

        @Ash78: That graph is hilarious!

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @Ash78: You make a common, though understandable err. You used the base pirate score, not the nominal one, as mainstream Piratologists use.
        17th Century pirates were much saltier – to say nothing of the multiplier effect of parrots – thus the earlier era should receive a baseline positive rating of + 0.75%.
        Academics refer to it as the “aAARH” effect (note the lower-case “a” – don’t be a newb and forget that).

    • henwy says:


      It’s not that you’re stupid. It’s that Nancy Pelosi is a lying piece of crap. The data’s been manipulated to look far more extreme than it is, which is also why it’s hard to understand. Follow the time link. The new graph there is much better about showing the real impact.

  2. Segador says:

    What good does this chart do? What good do the endless headlines that forcast Doom and Death for the economy do? Does anyone viewing this chart have any power to really change even a small part of any of this? I completely advocate staying informed,(I’m here, aren’t I?) but the ridiculous over-coverage of job losses and gigantic headlines of FINANCIAL MELTDOWN!!!!!!!! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!! is borderline fearmongering.

    • boomersix says:

      @Segador: Borderline? I think it is waaaay beyond “borderline”.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @Segador: It’s fearmongering so the government can push their “Spendulus” onto us with all their pet projects and pork attached.

      I hate government. I’m glad Mr. Change is out there showing his true colors by stumping in support of this farce that has little to do with job creation.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        @InfiniTrent: If you hate government, why not move to Somalia, where there isn’t any? Apart from that, please provide your solution. I am guessing you are of one of the two following schools of thought:

        1. Do nothing (fark the poor).
        2. Implement a whole bunch of tax cuts (which does zero for someone without taxable income).

        If this is a true assumption, please also provide your rationale informing said solution.

        • csdiego says:

          @HurtsSoGood: Yeah, this.

          Tax and spending cuts have been given more than a fair try. They don’t work. The whole point of a stimulus plan is to spend money on people who will turn around and spend that money on something else. That’s how the economy grows.

          • Segador says:

            @csdiego: We had a stimulus package several months ago- one that even gave $600 cash to every citizen. It did nothing, and pushed us even further into debt. Throwing worse money after bad isn’t the answer here. Tax cuts would provide a long-term solution, IMHO.

            • csdiego says:

              @Segador: I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn’t know that the $600 per household was a tax rebate, which didn’t work because a lot of people turned around and saved it. A tax cut would be the same thing. GW Bush passed out tax cuts like candy, which took the US economy from a government surplus to massive deficits and didn’t do a thing to promote growth either.

              Some economic background (because it’s getting lost in the hype about sacks of cement driving Cadillacs): saving is great for individual households, but it doesn’t stimulate the economy. Only spending does. Since so many consumers are strapped for spending cash, the government has to act as the spender of last resort right now. That’s what the stimulus bill is about.

              • dragonfire81 says:

                @csdiego: The first thought I had when I came into this post, was “fearmongering at its finest”. Good to see lots of folks agreeing with me.

                This whole constant “the sky is falling” crap in the media about the recession just drives me mad.

              • Segador says:

                @csdiego: Right. The $600 rebate was part of the stimulus package, which I stated. And you’re right- one of the many reasons it didn’t work was because people didn’t spend it. However, I disagree that the correct course of action here is to ramrod this grotesque, pork-laden spending bill through the senate. $20 million to re-sod the National Mall? $650 million for MORE DTV transition coupons? $70 million to help people quit smoking? C’mon.

                • csdiego says:

                  @Segador: Yeah, and $50 trillion to buy Cadillacs for bags of cement, I know. All the projects you mention are valid uses of government spending, and unlike tax cuts they have a multiplier effect greater than 1.

                • Tmoney02 says:

                  @Segador: $20 million to re-sod the National Mall?..C’mon

                  That isn’t pork. The mall needs every last penny of that.

                  Since everybody and their brother wants to hold protests and gatherings on the mall there is hardly any grass left. It is mostly dirt and mud patches. The ground is so compacted that it is almost impossible to get any sort of meaningful grass growing before some event has people walking all over it and killing the new grass.

                  The mall to be properly restored needs to be completely redone with fresh top soil trucked in and graded and new hardy breed sod planted and carefully taken care of until it can handle the traffic. Since no one will stand for the mall to be closed all at once this will have to be done a little at a time, increasing the cost.

            • sirellyn says:

              @Segador: You have to cut government spending before tax cuts. Not just stimulus packages. The cost to pay for the US military every year in all those countries around the world equals the revenue they bring in from the income tax.

              Think about that.

              If the US actually did withdraw from all the other countries around the world, and had a military like I dunno, pretty much any other country. You wouldn’t have to pay an income tax.
              And that doesn’t even count all the other ridiculous spending the government does.

              • buckfutt says:


                Where do you get your news from, Daily Kos?

                US individual Income tax receipts from 2007 were $1.1 trillion. The entire defense budget plus war expenditures were about half that.

            • papahoth says:

              @Segador: people save tax cuts is the reason they don’t work typically.

          • varro says:

            @csdiego: The Congressional Budget Office did a study at the request of Senator Judd Gregg – tax cuts have the lowest return on investment as opposed to direct federal spending, grants to state and local governments, and direct transfers to individuals.

        • Vandon says:

          @HurtsSoGood: 2. Implement a whole bunch of tax cuts (which does zero for someone without taxable income).

          Here’s your answers to your parenthetical comment:

          A. I never got a job from a poor person.
          B. I did, however, get a job from a business that was expanding its base because of a recent tax cut. They were able to lower their price and sell more product and because of that, had to hire more people.

    • Landru says:

      @Segador: It illustrates the need to take some sort of action. Ignoring it isn’t going to help.

      • Traveshamockery says:

        @Landru: It’s pretty easy to argue the going an additional trillion dollars into debt ain’t going to help either.

        This stimulus plan sucks. There’s probably a way to make it more effective, but the amount of pork and BS projects attached to it are an embarrassing indictment on our elected officials.

        • Segador says:

          @InfiniTrent: SO if it sucks, and all educated people seem to think it sucks, and my friend with his Master’s in Economic Theory thinks it sucks, then why the hell is this passing? Who elected these idiots? Oh, wait…

          • Traveshamockery says:


            Who elected these idiots?

            More idiots?

            Unfortunately, half the time the people we vote for aren’t the same people who arrive in office. If recall were easier, I think a lot in Washington would be packing their bags right now.

    • Segador says:

      @Segador: I thought I was going to take a lot of heat formy comment. It’s nice to see that quite a few people feel the same way.

    • SkittleKicks says:

      @Segador: And of course, it’s a vicious cycle. As the media continues to hype it, more small business owners get frightened and lay people off, continuing the cycle.

      • sirellyn says:

        @SkittleKicks: No it’s not just a fear cycle. If that were the only problem people would lay people off out of fear and conserve, things would go down a bit but demand would still be around. So eventually those employers would know different since despite what the media has been saying demand is still very strong for them.

        This isn’t fear mongering. The US has been stuck in polly-anna syndrome while it’s been building up massive debt with none of that debt going to actual production. Only consumption.

        You should be afraid.

    • howman says:

      @Segador: Terror fearmongering or financial fearmongering or medical fearmongering… pick your poison… something is needed, or used to control population.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Segador: So, you’re suggesting that the Finapocalypse is simply mainstream media spin?

    • buckfutt says:

      It’s an entirely misleading graph, not least because it does not include the 1981 recession, which was MUCH worse than either the 2000 or 1991 recessions. Not that this is surprising coming from “500 million job losses a month” Nancy…

    • squablow says:

      @Segador: Your original statement is very well said. Honestly, if it weren’t for the news, I would have no idea any of this was happening.

      The “borderline fearmongering” is being used as a tool to get these new things passed, and it’s working quite well.

      Is there anyone here who will bet me even $1 that this latest “stimulus” plan will help even a tiny amount?

    • papahoth says:

      @Segador: If you used $800 billion to hire government workers that all went out and spent the money like drunken sailors, that would help the economy. Maybe not the most efficient way, but the idea that government spending does not help is beyond silly. I love the Republidums saying that the spending in the New Deal didn’t help, it was WW 2 (they don’t mention the even more government spending then) that helped end the depression. Government spending either through being in the military or building for the military is what did it. Government spending works.

  3. Mr-Mr says:

    The green line shows what happens to your libido once starring at Pelosi in the face. That woman frightens me. She has one frozen expression on her face, and it’s scary.

  4. johnj21 says:

    How did we ever recover from the other two recessions without a 1 Trillion dollar spending plan? Perhaps debt is not a road to recovery…

    • banmojo says:

      @johnj21: very good point, thank you.

    • papahoth says:

      @johnj21: Those recessions came off of bigger boom times. Also Reagan did increase the deficit big time in 1982 through 1986. Also we had no signs of deflation then like we do now. Plus those were not recessions that caused a world-wide recession like we managed to do this time. Plus there was not a freezing of the capital markets. Plus there was not some incredible amount of bad investments like there is now. So bad point, no thank you.

      • orlo says:

        @papahoth: “Signs of deflation”, but no actual deflation: an excuse to print money.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @papahoth: Good points. Add:
        What was the effective Fed rate in previous times? Not zero? Oops.
        Hard to use tools traditionally available when the previous regime pretty much broke them into itty-bitty bits in an orgy of closed-eye, recklessly hurtling, Free Market Fundamentalism.
        No one likes this path, fellahs. It’s just that there are so few alternatives remaining.

  5. Brazell says:

    The 1990 and 2001 recessions were paultry and insignificant — minor corrections, and one induced by a national emergency. But, that this is the most serious economic correction since the 1970s, perhaps 1930s, is already pretty well accepted.

    • RandomHookup says:

      @MichaelBrazell: 2001 wasn’t exactly shaping up to be a great year before September. Remember the Dot Com meltdowns? That was already happening before anyone took over a plane.

      • Jim Topoleski says:

        @RandomHookup: Yeah but they where insignificant, especially since .coms by their nature really didnt HAVE any people.

        • kexline says:

          @Jim Topoleski: Are you … I mean … seriously, what? The dotcoms didn’t employ anybody? You must be an English professor or Quiktrip cashier or — hey, is this Candid Camera?

        • RandomHookup says:

          @Jim Topoleski: Lots of the dot com layoffs were in companies that weren’t internet startups. Consulting firms, law firms, PR firms, big retailers with online divisions, advertising firms, newspapers, hardware and software firms.

          Little old AOL laid of 1200 in August 2001. Webvan shut down in July 2001, leaving behind almost 3000 employees they had at the start of the year. Lots of the unemployment started well before Sept.

          • Jim Topoleski says:

            @RandomHookup: write back when the number of laid off people doubles the national new unemployment numbers.

            I know it effected people, it effected people I know, but the .com crash was a nothing in the grand scheme of things. Its only looked on as this huge thing simply because those more inclined to be tech savvy and talk about it online where the ones effected and not the general public.

            In comparison we are talking about companies laying off 20 TIMES the number of little old AOL in 2001. In fact AOL laid off more this past year than the ENTIRE .com bust i think the number was somewhere between 5000 and 7000 (which begs the question why the hell does AOL still employ that many people).

            Im sure by your tones you where effected which is why you two think differently, but for most of us, the .com bust was a nothing.

            • RandomHookup says:

              @Jim Topoleski: I’m not saying that there’s a comparison, just that there were substantial numbers of people affected by that time (yes, myself included), many of whom have ended up underemployed and haven’t really recovered to this day. My point was more about the timing of the unemployment. MichaelBrazell claimed that the unemployment was the result of Sept. 11th. I meandered a little, but I was making the point that it had already started well before then (the leading edge was in 2000) and it got worse after 9/11.

              I realize this will be bigger and it will hit more people. I was just joining in a shot at a little hyperbole.

    • dangermike says:

      @MichaelBrazell: There was a large recession in the early 50’s as well. But it didn’t have a flashy name like the great depression or stagflation, and the people who lived through it are probably mostly buried by now, or at least retired from prominence. Anyhoo, if memory serves, it was more severe than the 70’s but of course much smaller than the 30’s. Logically, it should be the next step for comparison if we start to surpass the numbers from energy crisis/stagflation thing (as we likely will do soon).

  6. jpdanzig says:

    All I know is that there are NO advertising jobs in America for folks in their forties and fifties.

    My friends in the field have been living on savings since about the year 2000.

    No, we haven’t been able to make up for lost income selling stuff on ebay…

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @jpdanzig: Time for a career change?

      • RandomHookup says:

        @InfiniTrent: I find your 50s is a perfect time for a career change. Would you like fries with that?

        • Traveshamockery says:

          @RandomHookup: Colleges admit 50 year-olds.

          If they’ve been living off their life savings since 2000 (assuming that’s not hyperbole, I don’t think it was) they need to change careers, or move someplace with better opportunity.

          What do you suggest? If they don’t act, they’ll still be asking the “fries with that” question, but this time they’ll be 75 years old with no retirement to fall back on.

          • jpdanzig says:

            What careers are available for 50 year olds these days? Teaching is about all I can figure — I really don’t feel like being a security guard…


          • RandomHookup says:

            @InfiniTrent: It’s a reality of our culture…it’s really hard to start over again once you hit a certain age. Yes, you could get another degree or specialized training, but there aren’t that many fields where you can start again without convincing someone to take a risk on you. Maybe nursing, some of the technical fields, but there aren’t many bosses out there who want to hire someone 25 years older than his average worker.

            Retail and food service may be the best options, though you pay a high price to get to management level, and there is a certain swallowing of dignity that some people can’t stomach.

            I don’t have any real suggestions and it’s going to be harder in this economy for someone to catch a break.

            • shadowsurfr1 says:

              @RandomHookup: Retail and food service may be the best options, though you pay a high price to get to management level, and there is a certain swallowing of dignity that some people can’t stomach.

              I’d be really curious about that whole swallowing of dignity thing in food service. I work as a student supervisor for a top rated college dining hall and I’m in a really good job. Yes, I am a college student so I’m only 20, but we have workers that are well into their 60’s with us. It’s just a matter of finding the right place.

              Age is only a limit if you let it be one. Gaining self-control over one’s mind is the best thing one could do.

              • RandomHookup says:

                @shadowsurfr1: If you were 48 years old and the VP of an advertising firm, it’s really hard to sling hash at a diner, for example, as a way to work your way up into management. Some people can’t accept that they need to do this and would be embarassed if they had to wait on tables when their friends came in.

                Certainly there are folks who do just that as you referenced above, but I would venture to say that most of the ones you see don’t have college degrees or they have been at this for a while. Or maybe they have retired and do it as an income supplement.

                I know during the dotcom implosion, there were a lot of IT managers and copywriters working in Staples. Unfortunately, even those jobs aren’t around in the same number any more.

                Food service is a fine profession, but it has always been the butt of jokes and, for many, is considered the employer of last resort. It can be hard for people who did it while a college job to go back to what they did 30 years ago. The same can be said for the former manager who gets demoted to doing the function she has been managing. People do it, but there can be a high emotional price.

                I agree that self-control is important, but it’s always hard to find a good ROI on a career if you have to start over past 40 (mostly because it’s harder for people to get hired).

    • Apeweek says:


      The wife and I are in the same situation with video production and public relations type jobs, and we live in Michigan, where the recession hit a few years early.

      I suppose the good news is that this gave us a few years head start figuring out where to earn a living.

      After a couple of scary years, we are now, ironically, primed for our best year ever.

      Companies that cut PR employees willy-nilly now outsource much of the same work. We have our own little business, and we do this work cheaper than our client companies used to do it themselves. Despite this, we now make way more money than we did as employees.

      Of course, there was risk, luck, and investment involved. We are reluctant entrepreneurs, and would never have done it without our backs being against the wall.

  7. B says:

    So it’s the worst recession of my life, almost, as I was born in ’75.

  8. Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

    It could also just be that the severity may not end up following this path, just that job losses were much quicker this time around. There’s some part of me that thinks that some companies are using the doom & gloom environment to excuse some layoffs that might have been a long time coming–perhaps thinking that their layoff announcements won’t be as damaging if everyone else is doing it, too. Crowd mentality.

    • Skankingmike says:

      @Ash78: You may be right companies love firing old and over paid people, however I feel that some of these people will end up on the system and never get back into the game the same way they were.

      Which leads us to the 10000 pound elephant Obama nor anybody in Washington wants to tackle. Social Security.

      Baby boomers HOOOO!

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @Ash78: I think you’re right on. Also, in the glass house of today’s market, companies that don’t make layoffs and other cuts wind up being punished by shareholders who don’t believe their company is “doing enough” to withstand the recession.

      Best Buy is a good example…they made a ton of corporate layoffs despite their No. 2 competitor biting the dust.

    • Saboth says:


      That’s what I gathered…there is a much more severe immediate form of job loss over the last 2. If you look at the bottom of the 2001, it leveled off at around 2700, whereas we are at about 3600 now. If it leveled off immediately, we wouldn’t be all that far off from the 2001.

    • ludwigk says:

      @Ash78: There are three “silver-lining” type things I can think of from this graph, one of which is the point that you’ve made. These are ‘mathematical analysis’ type points, as opposed to “knowing anything about the economy” points:

      -The cuts are swifter and deeper, but will not last as long. The total job loss is going to be the integral of the curve (the area inside the curve, with the x-axis being the top). If the recovery is quick, then the total job loss could be not as significant. Also, since the cuts were swift, they could be pre-emptive to stem larger losses at big companies and prevent bigger problems, such as companies going bankrupt. This assumes to some extent that we’ve ‘learned’ from past recessions and are taking the correct path to a quicker recovery.

      -Our population, and working population over the past 20 years has grown. Job loss needs to be normalized for the total work force, and even better, include data regarding the work-force breakdown and job loss breakdown by age. Are we losing teenagers flipping burgers, college grads? 30-40’s in their professional prime? Are elderly working longer to support themselves? Are they getting fired?

      A larger loss is ‘appropriate’ if the total work force is significantly larger, and an age-sensitive breakdown will tell you what kind of problems we are actually facing. Although, we already know we’re in all kinds of trouble.

      -The total workforce, and total un/employment rate prior to this recession could have been artificially high due to the boom/bust economic cycles that we’ve been in for the past decade. A certain amount of job loss could indicate that the economy is returning to a more natural equilibrium.

  9. Skankingmike says:

    Wait isn’t this the same women that said 500 million Americans lose their jobs each month?

    I’m glad she’s on top of things!

    • Yossarian says:

      @Skankingmike: Yeah, I expected a graph of 500 million lost jobs a month to look much worse than that.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Skankingmike: Curious: could you explain to us the difference betweeen U3 and U6?

    • TVarmy says:

      @Skankingmike: I’m really glad this article wasn’t yet another joke about that. It’s getting old. She meant 500,000, and that’s not too radical a figure. It was a slip of the tongue, find a real problem with the stimulus.

      • Pandrogas says:

        @TVarmy: Okay.

        The current stimulus problems (Conceptual, I haven’t read all 700+ pages of it):
        – Isn’t actually going to fix the problems
        – Will stimulate more temporary construction jobs than anything longer term
        – Won’t promote much in terms of long-term infrastructure improvements
        – Is the equivalent of a jolt to the heart, problem is the patient needs a quadruple bypass to keep going.
        – Is combining government politics with the open market more and more, which is never good.

        • stre says:

          @Pandrogas: i don’t want to take sides on this argument, but half of your “reasons” aren’t really reasons at all. they’re biases.

          “isn’t actually going to fix the problems”. Could you be vaguer?

          “equivalent to a jolt to the heart”. huh?

          and what’s wrong with short term jobs? none of the jobs FDR created lasted more than a few years, but his plan seemed to work just fine.

          without having read the stimulus package, i will agree that if we’re not promoting projects to improve our infrastructure, we’re doing something wrong. we’ve got roads and bridges and buildings and cables and all sorts of stuff that desperately needs to be fixed/improved and this recession could actually provide a means of doing these things. likely at a lower cost than would be the case during a boom time, to boot.

          • zyodei says:

            @stre: “none of the jobs FDR created lasted more than a few years, but his plan seemed to work just fine.”

            I always find it amazing how people are always saying that FDR’s plan “worked just fine.”

            What metric are you measuring it by?

            Here’s a useful metric: The Great Depression lasted for SEVENTEEN YEARS. That’s a LONG damned time. It is generally assumed that it only ended with WWII, although this is not entirely true. So, by any measure, the New Deal ***FAILED***.

            Why do people keep assuming it was a big success? Do we want this to last for 17 Years!!!

            If we want to generate jobs, why does nobody suggest removing regulations and licensing on new, small businesses? That’s a way to create jobs for free. The only cost might hypothetically be marginally worse services, but there isn’t much evidence that more regulations actually create better services.

  10. FreeShaggy says:

    I’m going to play the “glass if half full” card.

    Look at the chart? Notice anything interesting about it? Look really hard. Do you see it?

    Jobs. Eventually. Return. To. Normal.

    Even better in fact!

    So don’t panic. Things will be fixed. Give it a few years.

    • hypnotik_jello says:

      @FreeShaggy: Sure, eventually. Might take 10 or 20 years, but we’ll get there.

      • ElizabethD says:


        My husband is in his early 60s; I am in my late 50s. He has been out of work for two years; we may have to default on our mortgage, thus wrecking a lifetime of impeccable credit. We have one child in college and one close to going.

        Is your recovery time frame supposed to comfort people in our demographic? Because I can tell you, it does nothing for me.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @FreeShaggy: The problem is that many in the public are screaming “FIX IT!!! FIX IT NAO!!1!!” at our elected officials, when the best thing would probably be to leave it the heck alone.

      • B says:

        @InfiniTrent: Except, of course, if the reason the previous recession/depressions got fixed is because the government fixed it.

        • Anonymous says:

          The government never fixed it. They exacerbated it, just as they are doing now. We’ll have real inflation soon, thanks to our clueless government. Led, of course, by the guy who’s only real vote on any issue of substance was “present”

        • Traveshamockery says:

          @B: Do you believe that to be the case? Because a very large number of today’s leading thinkers believe government tinkering actually prolonged the effects of the Great Depression.

          • B says:

            @InfiniTrent: Yes, I believe the government can fix the economy when they act correctly. Do I belive that FDR acted perfectly? No, I think he acted too slowly in many instances, and spent too much time trying to balance the budget when the economy was still struggling. As for the current stimulus, I think it will help a little, but it’s got many problems. Now, I don’t think that goverment spending is a cure-all, I’m well aware that in the 70s taxes and goverment spending were way too high, and Regan fixed the economy by cutting spending and reducing taxes, allowing businesses to flourish. However, that’s not going to work now, as the current problems aren’t caused by high taxes or high spending.

            • varro says:

              @B: Actually, what stopped stagflation was Paul Volcker’s instituting crushingly high interest rates, which killed inflation at the expense of sending the country into a severe recession in the early 1980s.

              Reagan instituted a defense buildup, which is just Keynesian pump-priming.

              • Trai_Dep says:

                @varro: Volker, appointed by Carter. So, the stagflation, fanned into an uncontrollable beast by Nixon and Ford, was fixed by Carter. Carter.
                Boy, that must sting Republicans’ butt.

          • battra92 says:

            @InfiniTrent: Hear Hear! FDR gets way too much credit when in fact he was a pretty poor president.

            As far as the markets? Leave them alone and they’ll come home, waggin’ their tales behind them.

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @FreeShaggy: So don’t panic. Things will be fixed. Give it a few years.

      Easy to say when one has a job. Not at easy when there is bills due and no money coming in because it will still be a “few years” until the jobs come back.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @FreeShaggy: “Eventually,” we’ll all be dead.
      Sorta optimal to try to make our time here as productive and happy as possible, yes?

    • TVarmy says:

      @FreeShaggy: This would be a better chart if we also saw major government projects/interventions as points on the chart, so we could see what happened. If it’s market forces, we’d see no correlation. If it’s the government, we’d see delayed reactions.

      Right now, it seems like a downward spiral. People lose their income, and don’t want to spend. No one spends, and the businesses lay off workers to save money. The prices go down, but no one wants to spend anything because they’re either jobless or afraid of losing their jobs. There may be a point where things balance out, but who knows how far in the future that is. Saying that jobs balance out eventually is a little condescending for a person who lost his job and is facing bankruptcy. There is a very human element to a recession, so that’s why the length matters just as much as the severity.

  11. provolone says:

    The graph shows that jobs lost during the 2001 recession were not fully recovered until 2005. How much has the population really changed since 2005? I don’t think this graph would look much different if it had been adjusted for change in population like the Time’s readers wanted.

    Time for some stimulus.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @provolone: Barack, is that you?

      The recovery after 9/11 was incredibly quick, because in reality nothing happened to affect the nation’s economy. Everybody sold off their stocks because they thought the end was near, and as a result, companies fired a bunch of people. The stock market only took about a year to recover, if I recall correctly. It was a different kind of recession – one caused by disaster, not one caused by economic problems.

      • Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

        @InfiniTrent: Agreed…the only industry that I remember really struggling pre-9/11 was the airlines (who then used 9/11 as a convenient scapegoat for their multi-year problems). Everything else just seemed like a knee-jerk and general stock market sell-off, as you said.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @provolone: Not much. An updated one (similar trendline, slightly modified slope):

      Reaching too far back in time is problematic, since how unemployment is measured changed multiple times. It’d be interesting to use U6 figures for the chart, for a more accurate (and more scarily accurate) graph. But for a decade or so, both population and unemployment measuring methods hold fairly accurately.

      (Can someone repost so the graphic displays, then let us know how it’s done? I’ve always wondered that. Thanks!)

  12. speeddaimon says:

    This is why most serious economists, when talking about job loss statistics, refer to everything in percentages. So there isn’t the discrepancy between the differences in workforce population across various years.

  13. copious28 says:

    I think its interesting that the savings rate has jumped through the roof. Clearly a paradigm shift. Once we have all figured out how to create jobs not associated with buying cheap plastic crap from WalMart, the economy will turn around.


  14. buckfutt says:

    Oh, my God! The only solution is to throw a trillion dollars at campaign contributors! Do it now!

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @buckfutt: ATV Trails! Amtrak funding! Reopen a clean coal plant that was shut down for being a wasteful project! Contraception education!

      Yeah…this is important stuff! I’m onboard!

      • B says:

        @InfiniTrent:Yes, casue the last thing we want to do is reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and STD infections. I’m sure that won’t help the economy at all.

        • Traveshamockery says:

          If the goal is to decrease unwanted pregnancies and STDs, then let’s pass a bill to fund programs for those purposes.

          I’m sure that won’t help the economy at all.

          You’re right, it won’t help at all. Preventing a few STDs will have no impact on today’s economy or job situation.

          Why is that type of fluff being hidden inside an “Economic Stimulus” which is being marketed as a job creator and job saver? It’s pork, no more, no less – something tied to a high priority bill so it can be passed under cover of night.

          • B says:

            @InfiniTrent: It’s a direct stimulus to Trojan and other condom manufactures, and indirectly to the rubber industry and other companies who do business with them. And all their employees will now have a little more money to spend, stimulating the economy even more. In addition, the long term effects of reducing sick leave and maternity leave of employees will increase productivity, allowing companies to be more profitable.

          • Trai_Dep says:

            @InfiniTrent: Hee. The nice thing about refuting Limbaugh talking points is that, as they resurface again and again, we can simply copy/paste from the last time.

            “Under current law, states wanting to use Medicaid money for family planning services, including cancer screenings, must obtain a waiver from Washington, as some 27 states have done. The modest provision that was cut would have done away with the cumbersome process. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the measure would provide coverage to 2.3 million women by 2014 and save $200 million over five years.

            The Medicaid family planning provision would reduce the number of abortions by helping an estimated half-million women avoid unplanned pregnancy, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute. The knee-jerk opposition of House Republicans was but the latest sign of G.O.P. insensitivity to women’s rights and health. President Obama should no longer placate it.”


            So, the majority of states already do it, this simply reduces the bureaucracy (read: gov’t waste) involved. And the amounts saved are in the hundreds of millions of dollars range, setting aside the savings involved in catching diseases when they’re treatable with a cheap pill rather than later, let alone reducing human misery.

            Of course, saving money, reducing misery and fixing real problems haven’t exactly been a high GOP priority so few are surprised at their hostility at a simple, common-sense fix of a program that the majority of states already do anyway.

            • chauncy that billups says:

              @Trai_Dep: The “NYT” is less credible than Limbaugh, sorry to say.

              You might as well be citing Wikipedia.

              • Trai_Dep says:

                @bilups: Really?
                Put your $$ where your money is, then. Provide credible, well-sourced data that disproves the above. It’ll be a breeze, right? Put up or shut up, in other words.
                I’ll take your silence as abject capitulation.

      • battra92 says:

        @InfiniTrent: As much as I hate government spending, I am at least partly on board for some increases in Amtrak. Hell, if we have this nationalized train service I should at least have it be usable.

  15. jwissick says:

    I just tend to ignore anything my senator NaziPelosi says. She is a moron.

    • tedyc03 says:

      @jwissick: Seeing as you incorrectly identified House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a senator, I’d say the moron in the room might be you…

      Just sayin’.

    • RandomHookup says:

      @jwissick: Calling the Speaker of the House a “senator” doesn’t do much to increase your reputation.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @jwissick: You’ve done a remarkable job of encapsulating why Conservatives have nothing worthwhile to say regards fixing the economy that they blew to smithereens. Good job!

      • Cattivella says:

        @Trai_Dep: Right, because some random person really represents the entirety of conservative thought.

        How about the fact that over 200 leading economists are saying exactly what conservatives are saying: that passing this stimulus will hurt the economy more than doing absolutely nothing.

  16. Anonymous says:

    That graph is extremely mis-leading. The Y-axis shows job losses in numbers. The economy and work force of America has grown substantially since 1990 and 2001. Thus, a similar percentage of job losses will be a larger net total. It should be in percentages. In fact, this graph shows good news. If you want to compare this recession to previous ones, it seems like we’re just as far into it as past recessions were when they began to recover.

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath and start thinking logically again…

    • chauncy that billups says:

      Exactly. Thus, this graph is completely meaningless. Misleading graphs, in my opinion, are very insidious because they use a simple image to color peoples’ opinion, and those people don’t usually have an understanding of what makes the graph false misleading (in this case, ignoring the actual employment RATE and the differences in the total people in the workforce).

      Which is EXACTLY why Pelosi used this one, and not a more reasonable graph:
      (yes I know this from the NRO, but at least it takes into account actual historical context of employment rates to reiterate that we’re NOT in uncharted territory).

  17. garfield1979 says:

    This chart has a little too much drama attached to it. and doesn’t consider other variables.. I follow another blog about the economy and they put the current cut back in jobs into perspective including a much less “dramatic” chart.
    the link is here:

  18. hypnotik_jello says:

    Of course one thing this chart doesn’t keep track of is the months of denial to be had until people finally wake up and realize we’re in a world of hurt.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @hypnotik_jello: Who doesn’t believe we’re in a world of hurt?

      • MBZ321 says:

        @InfiniTrent: I don’t know…I see a lot of people not taking this seriously at all. The media, etc. of course talk about it, but not really how f’d we are. Meanwhile, those that can keep maxing out credit cards at Starbucks oblivious to the depression they will probably soon enter.

  19. kimsama says:

    It’s so hard to understand you when you’ve got your hands shoved in your mouths to stop the screams from escaping.

    Meghann: I had to shove my hands in my mouth to stop the laughter from escaping.

  20. bluewyvern says:

    Hey, at least the line is green. Green is good, right?

    Statistics should be a required class in high school. They can teach it back-to-back with Personal Finance and Consumer Skills. Everyone would then have the opportunity to learn how graphs can be designed to represent anything. And yes, the failure to present the job losses as a PERCENTAGE (of either total population or workers) makes this one meaningless.

    • j-o-h-n says:

      @bluewyvern: Pop 2008: 330M, 2000: 290M, 1990: 250M

      So, although not quite as dramatic, the adjusted chart would still show the 2008 line below and falling steeper/faster than the other two.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @bluewyvern: Charts can be used to say anything, but that’s why we go to school and learn Teh Math, and why Teh Internets are appreciated as something more than a delivery system for Teh Porn and (of course!) Teh Kittehs.
      Said knowledge allows us to evaluate information independently, source credibly, then present valid conclusions: the trend is very bad, even if our line’s slightly less steep than the above picture.
      > It’s a crisis of historic proportions. We need to deal with it like adults. <

  21. Alessar says:

    I live in Michigan, we’ve been in a recession for years already. The rest of you are coming to the party late. I hope you brought chips and dip.

  22. TouchMyMonkey says:

    I was 12 during the 75-6 recession (which sucked), and 18 during the one in 81-2 (in which my father came ever so close to losing his job). I think I am reasonably qualified to say that Rep. Pelosi is not full of shit. Anyone who doesn’t take this thing seriously is an idiot.

    • Jage says:

      @HurtsSoGood: This graph is most definitely full of shit.

      And since Nancy Pelosi made and released it (well, at least her office, and therefore her) she is also full of shit.

  23. shubox215 says:

    Politics as usual. One party scares the crap out congress to authorize a “preemptive war” in Iraq through B.S. propaganda. Now the Demos are using the same scare tactics to pass this enormous amount of debt on top of the Fannie and Freddy bailout, Wall Street bailout, and Detroit bailout. Where exactly are the new jobs going come if all of theses companies are in debt to the American people? Do you think now that they have a lifeline they will go on a hiring frenzy? They will pay themselves first. Think Wall Street bonuses.

    • ojzitro says:

      @shubox215: If you feel so strongly, go protest the stimulus plan…

      Fact of the matter is, if you have even a small grip on understanding financial systems, you would have the clarity that so many in this country find themselves lacking.

      Stop watching the “news”, and start reading every article you can find on credit markets; While you’re at that, go check out some papers on what a bond is, and why it’s important to growing a business.

      There will problems with whomever pushed through this bill, Republicans or Democrats, but have faith in the fact that all we try to do for this country, is in fact done to help it remain the greatest nation on Earth. I loathe some of our policies, foreign and domestic, and will argue in a pub all night long about them. Then, in the light of a misty morning, when I watch my neighbor remote start her car in the morning, and make sure she’s home when the Peapod truck shows up to deliver food to her door, I remember quickly and violently, that despite our shortcomings, we have a blessed life here in America, my home.

  24. outoftheblew says:

    I don’t even remember a 2001 recession, and am only aware of the 1990 one because (and I assume it’s related to this) I remember the 1989 stock market crash (because I had money invested for college).

    I’m more interested in comparisons between this and the 1930’s.

    • Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

      @outoftheblew: The 01 recession wasn’t heavily publicized, but I was a recent college grad and I remember hiring freezes and layoff everywhere (on a smaller scale than now, obviously).

      But it was almost like a vaporware recession. Not a lot of negative data apart from UE and stocks.

    • Skankingmike says:

      @outoftheblew: Some people deny it but i lived it.

      Worked at a temp agency like 90% of my friends.

      It was the highest year of Graduate applications Basically if you got accepted into law/med/grad school that year you were basically the best of the best. (aka my wife :P).

      I would like to see the numbers of applications for the coming years.

    • grumpygirl says:

      @outoftheblew: Actually, you want to be looking at comparisons between the present and the Depression 0f 1873-1879. I understand there are a lot more similarities to that one than to the Depression of the 1930’s.

  25. cmdrsass says:

    I thought Obama wanted to end the “politics of fear”? We’ve just exchanged one scare tactic for another.

  26. ooby says:

    This chart says that we’ve lost negative 3,500,000 jobs 14 months after peak job per month. That means that according to Pelosi’s graph wizards, we’ve gained 3,500,000 jobs since the last peak job per month. In addition to this gross mathematical error, “the last peak job per month” is a grammatical nightmare.

  27. Bahnburner says:

    This is Peter, getting robbed, roughed up and raped…continually…for the rest of his life.


  28. johnarlington says:

    What should the common person take from this chart?
    Even considering the fact that it was generated to further a political goal, it does bring home the necessity to prepare for this and future economic problems.

    1) Make sure that you have adequate savings to cushion yourself for a few months. You shouldn’t count on unemployment or severance pay. In bad times, even those can go away.
    2) Keep up to date on your prime job skills and develop new ones. All it takes is a night class or some reading to keep the job skills.
    3) Keep your resume up to date.
    4) Do not live a life style that requires all of your earnings. Just because you can afford to buy or rent the big house, don’t. It sucks to stretch to get into a house… and then lose your job. Its half the reason we’re in this mess to begin with.
    5) Preplan what you would do if the economy gets even worse. I have considered sharing a house with another family. You could squeeze 2 families into a 4 to 5 bedroom house for a few years. You would save some mad money on sharing costs including child care. Its close quarters… but it beats the shelter or in your car.

  29. Plates says:

    Of course Nancy Pelosi wants to scare the crap out of us. How else would she get this pork legislation that will make things worse through?

  30. Xerloq says:

    I’s like to see this graph redone based on the approximate start date of the recessions, versus peak job month. This assumes that peak jobs started at the same time in each recession, though jobs an be created as GDP declines or vice-versa, jobs can be lost as GDP rises. Since a recession is technically two quarters of GDP loss, it would be useful to track loses from the period of lost GDP rather than peak job month.

  31. cf27 says:

    Two problems:

    (1) It uses absolute numbers instead of percentages — today’s labor force is much larger than the labor force of the 1980s.

    (2) It’s very sensitive to unemployment levels. In 2007 (the “peak,” according to this graph), unemployment was at all-time lows.

    (3) It doesn’t show the recessions in the 1970s or 1980s, both of which were far deeper than the relatively mild ones in the early 90’s and 2000’s.

    A better graph would show the percentage of the workforce currently employed. That graph would show the green line starting *above* the blue and red lines, and then dropping down slightly below the red line. This graph makes things seem to be much worse than they actually are.

  32. Trai_Dep says:

    So, if one’s a V, another’s a U, what’s ours? Or, to rephrase, Which letter of the alphabet most closely resembles Hell in a Handbasket?

  33. jstonemo says:

    Since we are a consumer driven economy (not necessarily a good thing), wouldn’t it make more sense to give all the taxpayers a HUGE check from the $800b “stimulus” and have us consumers stimulate the economy. Call it trickle up economics. I could use the check to pay off my vehicle and house and the banks would be getting the money from Congress through me.

    Even if you went out and blew it on big screen TVs, boats, cigarettes or any other goofy purchase, it would go directly to the companies who sell and produce the goods, which would drive up their production thereby requiring a larger workforce, etc, etc.

    Or we can just throw it at banks and govt. bureaucracy and it gets horded and spent on executive perks and junkets!

  34. perruptor says:

    Here’s a revised graph, with the 1974 recession as yellow dots and the 1982 one as purple dots:

    The current one is worse.

    • Cattivella says:

      @perruptor: Yea, but again, the problem with the Pelosi graph is that it shows numbers instead of percentages and the number of jobs and people are currently much higher than ’74 and ’82.

      Now, if you revised the original graph to include percentages and then added the percentages from ’74 and ’82 you might be getting somewhere.

  35. Twinrevanoe says:

    Anyone notice that chart looks like one of those really evil roller coasters that almost embed you in the ground, only to hover a few feet off the ground and straight back up again? Makes you shit your pants in fear, but at least the worst part is over.

  36. JimK says:

    Since when could anyone – even a government – spending so far beyond what they ever have a chance to produce in an effort to get out of debt and have it work?

    This is well beyond “You gotta spend money to make money.” This is like taking huge piles of cash and burning it. I simply cannot fathom how a reasonable person could support such irresponsibility.

  37. SoCalGNX says:

    Just drink the purple kool aid and quit whining.

  38. papahoth says:

    Read it and weep Republicdums. [www.washingtonpost.com]

  39. Japheaux says:

    Maybe this will help her 10% approval rating. Well, we got our change!

  40. Fresh-Fest-1986 says:

    One of the fun things about arguing about the economy from a partisan standpoint is that the other side can always be totally wrong, and I have graphs to prove it.

    Our country is in a bad way. Can we stop talking up our favorite people with a D or R after their name and start working together.

    I really believe that some people would rather their “team” win then see positive results for all of us. And that is just sad.

    All of the pork that’s been stated, like the tired remarks about the SOD, have been taken out of the bill. Does handing this much money to the government seem like a terrible idea? Yes. Tax cuts don’t work. Neither does doing nothing. Any other ideas that can be done in the immediate future? No? Then let’s try this damn stimulus.

  41. JimK says:

    “Tax cuts don’t work.”

    And speaking of partisan talking points (that are also a blatant lie…)

  42. Chris Bellido says:

    Are you sure that graph isn’t upside down? Has to be some type of error.

  43. grumpygirl says:

    For the amount we’re going to be spending when this is all over, we could have just paid off ever mortgage in the United States.


  44. bananaboat says:

    Impressive. We lost almost 3mil jobs from Aug 1981 – Dec 1982 (17 months). We’ve beat that record and still heading downward.

  45. Diane Huang says:

    It doesnt take into account the how the population has grown. While unemployment in raw numbers is bigger, what about the unemployment relative to their respective populations?

  46. zyodei says:

    If we want to generate jobs, why does nobody suggest removing regulations and licensing on new, small businesses? That’s a way to create jobs for free. The only cost might hypothetically be marginally worse services, but there isn’t much evidence that more regulations actually create better services. There’s plenty of evidence that regulations stifle job growth, so why isn’t this even being considered as part of the “stimulus”?

    If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. Including, say, cancer. Hit it with a hammer and try to make it die.

  47. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Ah, but outsourcing is WAY, WAY UP!

  48. grapedog says:

    i would LOVE to see a national train service, one that would actually be usable. I now live in Texas, but would love to be able to take a train to MA to visit my parents, or to AZ to visit a good friend of mine. Hell, just being able to take a train from Austin to any other major city to save me on traffic would be awesome. Shooting up to Dallas for a day trip would actually be much more feasable.

  49. Scott Burley says:


    This is the same graph with all recessions going back to WWII. In this context, the current recession seems reassuringly moderate.

  50. Scott Burley says:

    Oh, it’s also expressed in % of the workforce, rather than absolute numbers.

  51. 420greg says:

    What recession? The in-laws wanted to go to Busch Gardens yesterday for their 40th Anniversary.

    Sold out at $70 a head, parking lot full, 25 minute wait to pay $6 for a hot dog.

    It is weird watching the news about how bad things are, then getting in the car and going to the mall and the parking lot is full, the mall is packed, and there is a 2.5 hour wait at the cheesecake factory to pay $14 for a burrito.

  52. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s about time we generation Xer’s put a little pride and ego aside and look to our parents ( or more likely ) grandparents who have already lived through an actual depression. We may be younger, stronger, faster, have more computer skills, etc. But I can guarantee you that folks from that generation KNOW HOW TO MAKE IT THROUGH!

    They didn’t grow up watching TV & playing video games, throwing temper tantrums when they didn’t get their way. They understand what it means to sacrifice and work hard. Things I think ( speaking as a 30 something ) a lot of people my age have forgotten are a part of life.

    That generation managed to pull together, work together and help each other through. There is a reason Brokaw called them the ‘Greatest Generation That Ever Lived’.