On miserable job performance, U.S. is about where you'd expect.
Brad DeLong of UC Berkeley is baffled by the bizarre news-media's surprise that America hasn't yet returned to full employment.
Lordie, the U.S. has suffered three "jobless recoveries" in a row. And this latest downturn has been one for the ages - deeper than any for most Americans, born too late to remember the Depression.
Plus, this is not your usual recession, an industrial downturn caused by interest rates deliberately raised by the Fed to prevent the economy from overheating. And doing the job all too well when Paul Volcker crashed the economy in 1981-82 in order to finally break the back of 1970s double-digit inflation.
What's transpired since December 2007 has been a wholly unplanned financial recession, triggered by a global credit meltdown that imperiled the banking system, dried up credit for even the most creditworthy individual, corporate and sovereign borrowers, and has worked its way - as financial downturns do - into every nook and cranny of the economy.
If the milder recessions of recent years yielded few new jobs upon recovery in GDP and corporate profits, what on Earth made anyone think this epic downturn would get us back to, say, 3% or 4% joblessness in anything less than a decade?
When you consider that the recession of 1990-1 was followed by a two-year jobless recovery, and that the recession of 2001-2 was followed by a three-year jobless recovery, it is hard to see what empirically-based model of the economy would lead you to think that the recession of 2007-9 would not be followed by a corresponding jobless recovery...
As it is, conditions have modestly improved under Obama, due mostly to a massive stimulus that Republicans now described as failed. Of course it failed, if what one means is that it ended too soon. (What the GOP means is that it shouldn't have been attempted.)
That first stimulus actually was successful, in creating or saving an estimated 3 million jobs, and more important, stopping the sickending downward spiral in GDP when Obama took office.
But it was too small given the horrid circumstances, even at an unprecedented $800 billion, or more than FDR spent in the entire duration of the New Deal. And it ran out after two years - precisely when employment began to decline again after a pickup during the Obama stimulus.
Progressives like Krugman and Stiglitz who at the time, in early 2009, argued for a larger, $1.2 trillion stimulus - and unbeknownst to them, had Christina Romer, then chief of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, for company - didn't grasp then and still don't that Congress wasn't about to give Obama more than $800 billion in February 2009, widely described at the time as an "astonomical" sum.
And Romer among others has pointed out that the Administration rightly worried there weren't quite enough "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects to take the funds. Injecting the $800-million stimulus resulted in surprisingly few boondoggles given the staggering sum.
In hindsight, the president could have called for a "two-stage" stimulus, accompanied by a long-term plan for deficit reduction to pay for it, that would have seen the initial stimulus succeeded by the "Son of Stimulus" the president finally proposed last Thursday in his address to the joint session of Congress.
Alas, today that $400-billion plus package will be a tough sell with a GOP-controlled Congress. Then again, the $800-billion was a tough sell to a Dem Senate whose filibuster-proof supermajority was a fragile one and lasted but four months before Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts.
Besides, the Hill in 2009 had just said yes - after first saying no - to a $700-billion bailout package for the banks, pleaded for by Bush treasury secretary Hank Paulson. (I say "pleaded" - the erstwhile Goldman Sachs CEO was on his knees, literally, to Nancy Pelosi for that bailout). By the time Obama was inaugurated, the Hill was deep into "bailout fatigue." Yet it approved the first, $800-billion stimulus and the Motown bailout. With no GOP votes, memorably.