â¿¿ GDP. America's economy is producing more goods and services than before the recession began. In the final three months of 2007, it produced an annual rate of $13.3 trillion in goods and services, a record high. That figure had shrunk to $12.7 trillion when the recession ended. It then began to recover. The U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest gauge of production, regained its previous peak by the end of 2011. And in the final three months of 2012, GDP was $13.7 trillion. Still, that gain comes with an asterisk, because the population has grown. Viewed on a per capita basis, GDP at the end of 2012 remained 1.5 percent below its pre-recession peak.
WHAT'S NOT BACK:
â¿¿ TOTAL JOBS. The United States still has many fewer jobs than in December 2007. The recession eliminated 8.7 million. Since then, 5.7 million jobs have come back, leaving the economy 3 million short. And the population of Americans 16 and older has grown by 13 million since then. As a result, a much smaller proportion of people are either working or looking for work than before the recession. The labor force participation rate â¿¿ the percentage of adults with a job or seeking one â¿¿ has sunk from its pre-recession level of 66 percent to 63.5 percent in February. That matches a 30-year low.
â¿¿ UNEMPLOYMENT RATE. When the recession began, unemployment was 5 percent. Now, it's 7.7 percent. Probably no figure better illustrates the downturn's lingering damage. The unemployment rate is well below the recession's peak of 10 percent in October 2009 but far above the 5 percent to 6 percent range associated with a healthy economy. Twelve million people are unemployed. Yet that figure doesn't include 2.6 million people without jobs who have stopped looking for one. An additional 8 million work part time but want full-time work. Combining all those groups, 22.6 million people are either unemployed or "underemployed." They represent an underemployment rate of 14.3 percent, down from a peak of 17.1 percent in April 2010.