The last 20-year period has seen two relatively long and placid periods of economic growth and stability, sandwiched by three very different recessions (https://www.nber.org/cycles.html). The 2001 recession was also known as the “dot-com” recession, and was tech-sector focused, as well as short and very mild. The 2007-2009 Great Recession was largely attributed to the housing market bust, and the more recent COVID pandemic is the result of our response to the disease–although there were some signs of the economy slowing down already in late 2019. Thus, the disease may have struck while the economy was already peaking. Paraphrasing Tolstoy, “Good times are all alike; yet bad times are each bad in their own way.”
Over the past couple of centuries, the U.S. economy has moved from an agrarian to a manufacturing, and finally to a service focused economy. Our emphasis on face-to-face service industry specialization may have made us particularly susceptible to the pandemic related job losses we have witnessed during the COVID crisis. While the current recession is still the worst experienced since the Great Depression, many people still think the economy is doing just fine. Job losses have piled up, and few expect to return to their previous employer.
Economic data of the past 20 years has provided some understanding about each of the previous recessions, and offer insight to our future recovery. Economists expect this recession to end just like all the others, and yet, the struggle here is unique. Jobs like paper production were already on the decline, but this crisis has absolutely crushed industries that supported the day-to-day office industry.
In a somewhat different angle to these stories, the COVID pandemic has resulted in a visible shift of the burden of household v. market work between men and women. Women have been called upon in greater numbers to help with schooling, and step away from paying jobs. This is somewhat alarming considering that the majority of our college-educated workforce is women, and that nearly 60% of college students are female.
The policy response has so far been somewhat astounding. From the unusual moves by the Federal Reserve (and here), to the $3+ trillion dollar fiscal stimulus, the economy has been primed for recovery. However, supplemental unemployment insurance benefits are ending, and the one-time stimulus checks do not appear to be replicated anytime soon.
What you should do here, is explore the data that surrounded the previous (and current) recession for thoughts about where we are headed. Do you think we need more stimulus from the fiscal or monetary authorities? Or do you think the economy is going to recover just fine on its own? What will be the long-run impact of this recent crisis on college graduates, families, and women in particular? Do you think this will have “long-run” implications on our economy? You might also consider the confounding factors of anti-immigration and anti-trade policy on the ability for the U.S. to compete going forward. These might be negatives or positives in your opinion.
The Goal & Grading
You can address any of these articles or questions, but do not feel overly restricted to use the ones that are mentioned here. It is a very good idea to use related articles and sources. You should form an opinion and back it up. Do NOT try to answer all of these questions. The entirety of your comment should be 500 words. Do NOT start by saying “I am writing this” because… I know why you are writing it! There is no one answer to any of the ideas or questions presented here. The point is more to learn to provide data-driven insights on issues that matter to you, while also providing some interpretation and story-telling. Do your best to use data to support your thoughts and not anecdotes (like “My Aunt Rhoda lost her job and … “). This should be written like a paper. Poorly written comments are subject to reductions. Repetitive comments are penalized, and those without a clear focus or emphasis are also not considered satisfactory. If you have any questions, please let me know.