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June 04, 2021

Unemployment proves this recession is unlike downturns past

When analyzing this latest recession, it’s admirable – at least – to claim it’s been nothing like downturns before.

Ah, you think this is bad? You should’ve seen how bad we had it back in the (insert period of particular economic turmoil).

Yet as post-recession data continues to churn out and there’s always a huge “but” associated with each sign of economic progress, it’s become quite apparent this past downturn is unlike any other.

Consider two employment-related measures:

1. Canada added another 25,000 jobs in May, but cannot drop its national unemployment rate despite the new positions. Our country’s rate remained at 8.1 per cent this month, about 1.8 per cent higher than it was even in July of 2009 – when many forecasted the recession was beginning to cease. “Despite the fact there has been some improvement in the jobs picture, unemployment remains a significant problem,” Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers, told the Star today.

2. And then, there is jobs data south of the border, a place where lagging employment numbers are showing the recession – in many respects – is far from over. Check out this graphic from the Bureau of Labour Statistics comparing U.S. employment changes during every recession since 1974. In the chart, you can clearly see this latest downturn has been much more deep and lasting than others where employment is concerned. By the bureau’s numbers, the recession of 2007-present dipped twice as low as downturns past for losses of employment, only now starting to climb back towards normalcy after about 29 months of economic pain.

Like Canada, the U.S. added jobs in May (431,000 compared to 25,000 here) but still maintains a high unemployment rate of 9.7 per cent.

Here at home, the return of laid-off employees to the workforce and an increase in national population, according to the Star, might mean our own country-wide unemployment rate is still a ways off pre-recession levels.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...