Job Loss in the Great Recession: Historical Perspective from the Displaced Workers Survey, 1984-2010
The Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009 is associated with a dramatic weakening of the labor market from which the labor market is now only slowly recovering. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high and durations of unemployment are unprecedentedly long. I use data from the Displaced Workers Survey (DWS) from 1984-2010 to investigate the incidence and consequences of job loss from 1981-2009. In particular, the January 2010 DWS, which captures job loss during the 2007-2009 period, provides a window through which to examine the experience of job losers in the Great Recession and to compare their experience to that of earlier job losers. These data show a record high rate of job loss, with almost one in six workers reporting having lost a job in the 2007-2009 period. The consequences of job loss are also very serious during this period with very low rates of reemployment, difficulty finding full-time employment, and substantial earnings losses.
This paper was prepared for a conference, "Unexpected Lifecycle Events and Economic Security: the Roles of Job Loss, Disability, and Changing Family Structure,'' held at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, May 20, 2011. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.