This Graph is Why the Recession is Over

The jobs market is terrible. At 9.5 percent, unemployment is already a full percentage point higher than the administration's worst-case scenario, and we're still bleeding jobs. "But wait!" say a handful of optimistic economists (they exist). "When we look at the jobs data, we don't see bleeding. We see an end." This graph, they say, is why the recession is over:


That's a graph of initial jobless claims -- the number of people filing for unemployment in a given week -- showing a clear peak in June 2009. And that peak you see is extremely good news, says economist Robert Gordon from Northwestern University. According to Gordon's research, which looks at employment trends in recessions, the four-week average of new jobless claims peaks about a month before we declare the end of a recession. In other words, if Gordon's research is correct, we can expect that July will mark the bottom of the economy's contraction.

Which would be good news indeed! But here's the problem. The folks in the business of "declaring" a beginning and end to recessions is the National Bureau of Economic Reserach, which takes a very long time to decide when we're in and out of a recession. They didn't declare the beginning of this recession -- December 2007 -- until almost a year later, in December 2008. So even if this summer marks the beginning of our recovery, we might not really know it for months.