Friday, February 6, 2009

On Line: Great Depression vs. Great Recession

As the AP reported today, employers eliminated 598,000 jobs in January, the most since the end of 1974 and far worse than expectations. The unemployment rate now jumps to 7.6% — which has to be vastly understated. "This is a horror show we're watching," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, in the New York Times upon the release of the Labor Department report.

I've read that we haven't quite come up with a name yet for this period of economic travail that we are in. We have a name for the 1930s economic collapse — the Great Depression, often shortened as the Depression, with a capital D. We seem to be still just calling this a recession, with a small r.

But it feels more than just a recession, doesn't it? Especially for those of us with a little gray hair who remember the 1973-74 deep downturn, the early 1980s and its raging inflation, the early 1990s banking and real estate troubles, and the 2000 tech meltdown. All were quite bad. But this feels more like a way-of-life changing event, much as I suspect the Depression was. 

Thus, I have a name to put forward for this period of economic decline — the Great Recession.

The iconic image I picture in my mind of the Great Depression is the soup line. The iconic image that may hold for this Great Recession might well be the job fair line.

We need to start creating jobs to mount a recovery. Speaking of which, Directors & Boards Publisher Robert Rock has written a compelling essay for the First Quarter 2009 edition of the journal. Its title is "Job One Is Jobs Won." I implore all board members to read this — and to get primed to act on it, for the good of the economy and the nation.

Better that this be called the Great Recession than the Great Depression II.