Recovery 2020! We're Barely on Pace to Close the Jobs Gap This Decade

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The labor market is in full-blown recovery mode right now, with the economy adding more than 200,000 net new workers each month for the past three months. At this rate, we'll close the jobs gap in roughly ... eight years.

Eight years!?

Yep, that is the conclusion from Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney at the Hamilton Project. Today the country faces a 11 million-person jobs gap. This "jobs gap" represents the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to return to pre-recession employment rates while also (this part is key!) absorbing everybody joining the labor force.

It's not just enough to make jobs for everybody seeking work this year. We also have to account for the millions of people joining the workforce over the next decade. Filling the jobs gap is like filling a bucket that gets deeper every minute. How much deeper? Greenstone and Looney balance an influx of immigrant workers against the retirement of the baby boomers and conclude that labor force is likely to expand at a slowing pace. Before the Great Recession, it was growing at about 130,000 people per month. In the next few years, it will slow to 90,000 a month, they project.

Our current rate of 240,000 new jobs-per-month is better than the best year in the 2000s. But it's still not fast enough to get us to full employment even by the end of the next presidential term.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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