Over the past five years, since the (technical) end of the Great Recession, a dense kind of economic malaise has settled over the United States. Overall unemployment is down but many of the new jobs being created are low wage and part time; real wages for most workers hasn’t budged. Wall Street is drowning in money but Main Street is still struggling to save, and millions of aging Americans are woefully unprepared for retirement. Gallup, a research and analytics firm, reports that a 48% plurality of Americans believe national economic conditions are getting worse.
Speaking at the 2014 UBS European Conference this November, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser described the recovery as “steady, if unremarkable.” Plosser highlighted the fact that headline unemployment has fallen faster than the FOMC initially forecast, hitting 5.8% in October compared to the 6.3%-6.6% range estimated in December. The most-recent employment numbers from the BLS also contained positive revisions for September and August. Year to date, the U.S. economy has added 2.3 million jobs.
But “This is not to claim that all is rosy in the labor markets,” Plosser added. “Many Americans remain frustrated and disappointed in their jobs and job prospects. For example, a large contingent of those working part time for economic reasons would like to be working full time. Nonetheless, we have to acknowledge that significant progress has been made.”
This progress can be hard to see, however. So here’s a breakdown of the current employment situation in the U.S.