Unemployment: A Recap of the Great Recession

standing in line

Are you still searching for a job? The good news is that after almost five years of enduring the ups and downs resulting from the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has finally added 217,000 jobs in May. This is the first time since 1999. The bad news is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3 percent. And for many Americans like you, the news only gets worse.

Who’s Getting Paid?

Since the recession ended, average wages have only grown approximately 2 percent per year, which is significantly lower than the average growth rate of 3.5 percent. In May, average hourly pay rose 5 cents to $24.38. That’s up 2.1 percent from 12 months ago and barely ahead of inflation, which was 2 percent over the same period. While blue-collar workers in the lower-paying service, manufacturing, retail, and construction industries have experience some modest gains since June 2009, middle- and high-income white-collar workers are still struggling.

According to the Washington Post, unemployment fell from 3.3 to 3.2 percent for people with a bachelor’s degree or more, and from 5.7 to 5.5 percent for those with some college. But it actually rose from 6.3 to 6.5 percent for people with only a high school diploma, and from 8.9 to 9.1 percent for those without one. Also since the great recession, “the hunt” for a job has become significantly longer for many Americans.

Who’s Not Getting Paid?

Since the beginning of the recession, a record number of people have dropped out of the work force, as the labor force participation rate slipped to a new low of 63.9 percent, says the Huffington Post. There are still 3.7 million unemployed workers who have been searching for a job for more than six months, more than three times the number of long-term unemployed there were in 2007, says the Economic Policy Institute. And those long-term unemployed workers can no longer count on the “economic lifeline” in the form of extended unemployment benefits.

Before the recession, someone who had lost a job typically received unemployment benefits for 26 weeks from the state. But when the economy took a dive in 2008, benefits were extended for as much as 99 weeks. Then Congress allowed the federal unemployment benefits extension to expire twice. The first time was in December 2012. But by early 2013, lawmakers struck a deal cutting the maximum benefit down to 73 weeks.

Then three days after Christmas, the benefits that offered assistance to more than 1 million people who had been out of work for more 27 weeks were cut altogether. Six months later and that number has tripled to 3 million more desperate Americans. In April, the U.S. Senate voted 59 to 38 in favor of a bill that would restore federal funding for extended unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, that bill is still languishing in the House without any signs of passing.

Keep Hope Alive

With such a grim outlook, you may think the odds are against you. Think again and remember to think positively. Things will get better. As a matter of fact, the demand for labor is improving. According to a survey conducted by Dice Holdings, Inc., a provider of specialized hiring and recruiting websites, more hiring managers say the U.S. economy has sparked an increase in hiring plans for the second half of 2014. Over 20 percent of respondents said current conditions have changed their hiring plans for the better, which compares to 22 percent who felt that way about the economy’s impact on hiring plans for the first half of this year.

“The positive hiring intentions reveal businesses are optimistic and confident in opportunities for growth, despite the disappointing contraction in GDP to start the year,” said Dice President Michael Durney said in a press release. “The ongoing increase in recruitment plans indicates a stronger economic environment."