Employment lags changes in output because firms usually wait to see if a recovery is permanent rather than a temporary uptick before committing to the costly task of hiring new people. But the reason for the change in the relationship between output and unemployment after 1990 is not fully understood, making it harder to know how to battle the problem using government policies designed to stimulate employment…. It's not just the lag between the turning points in output and employment that leads to a pessimistic outlook for labor numbers. Once unemployment does peak, output still needs to return to its normal growth level before we see a return to full employment. The San Francisco Fed doesn't expect a return to normal growth until the middle of 2012, and this means that unemployment likely won't fully recover until somewhere in 2013.
The reason for the slow recovery is partly due to the depth of the recession -- the deeper the hole, the longer it takes to crawl out of it -- but it's also because of the large amount of structural change that the economy must go through before it can recover….
[T]here's still a long road ahead, particularly for labor, and for that reason I am very much in favor of additional government policy targeted directly at the employment problem. In addition, given the record levels of long-term unemployment we are experiencing (those unemployed 27 weeks or more now constitute 35.6 percent of the unemployed; see here for a graphical representation of the situation), the recent vote to extend unemployment benefits was overdue and very welcome.
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