Has the US in 2017 Really Recovered from the Recession?

When people talk about the Recession (sometimes the “Great Recession”), they tend to talk about it as if they are referencing some event in the distant past.  But is the Recession really in the past?  Maybe, maybe not.  

Let’s Take a Look at the Evidence

To start with, consider that the US economy in 2017 looks to be worse than it was in 2016.  If you read through the linked post, you’ll see some of the evidence.  Bankruptcy filings are higher.  More retail stores have closed.  Factory output is declining.  US government revenues are falling.  And one out of every five families is totally unemployed.

There is other evidence as well that many American families and individuals are still struggling to break free of the economic chains of the Recession.  Consider the fact that only 34% of homes have recovered fully.  Additionally, this study found that 93% of US counties have also not recovered from the Recession.

And then there is the matter of employment and wages.  Even though unemployment rates are thankfully dropping, wages are not rising.  This is considered somewhat unusual, since a smaller pool of unemployed workers should increase demand for labor, which in turn should drive up wages.  There are a number of possible explanations for this, but in a world where the gap between rich and poor continues to grow along with inflation, it poses a clear problem.

Labor force participation has also remained low.  While it is difficult to explain this particular lingering aspect of the Recession economy, it is possible that it is the result of local variation in the Recession’s impact.  A worker who was living in an area which was hit hard during the Recession is still less likely to be employed today than one who was not.  That is true even if that worker has moved to an area with higher employment.  

Also consider the plight of Millennials.  According to data provided by the US Census Bureau, roughly a third of Millennials are living at home with their parents.  This certainly has nothing to do with laziness.  Indeed, there was also a report on the beliefs and aspirations of young people today, and it was found that Millennials typically consider finding full-time employment to be “extremely important,” with marriage and children falling much lower on the priority ladder.

This trend also reflects the struggles of Millennials, who believe that it is vital to achieve financial independence before getting married and having children.  The reason that parenthood and marriage is so far down on most Millennials’ priority lists is a direct reflection of the fact that the goal is such a challenge to achieve.  The obstructions to financial independence stand in the way like a roadblock, so many Millennials do not even have family on the radar right now.  They are too busy trying to cut a path for their own survival.

Looking Toward the Future

So whether the Recession is “over” or not, one thing can be said for certain, and that is that the shadow it has cast is long and deep.  That shadow reaches across generations, and may create a retirement crisis for numerous Americans.

To add to that, there are a few additional concerns.  China’s shadow banking system and other complex economic factors which are brewing right now could be paving the way for the next economic recession.

Automation is already taking away more and more jobs.  There is a common belief that automation will also create jobs, and it will—but will those jobs be enough to offset all of those which are being removed?  Perhaps not.  There is also a difference between this situation and the industrial revolution.  That technological revolution took away unskilled jobs, but this wave of technology is taking away jobs from skilled laborers as well.  Even doctors will need to worry about being replaced by robots (developments in that area have already begun).

Furthermore, while robots may have demands in terms of servicing, maintenance, design and construction, they do not consume other goods or services (food, entertainment, and so on).  So they reduce the demand for employees in array of industries, but do not add to the demand for other products or services.  This imposes an additional economic burden.

On top of all of this, we live in a consumer economy which revolves around instant gratification, not long-term value.  Products are designed with built-in obsolescence.  Employees are expendable.  Until this underlying philosophy changes, society will continue to de-value the average American worker.

Americans Today Cannot Simply Wait for Economic Recovery

With all of these factors at work and the economy still struggling to catch up after the Great Recession, Americans cannot afford to wait for someone else to step in and help them secure their financial futures.  For this reason, it is important for workers to look for alternative means to growing retirement accounts, like trading online with companies like TD Ameritrade and TradeKing.

So the jury may be out on whether or not the global Recession is in the past, but there are plenty of risk factors and weaknesses in the economy which continue to exert their pull.  On top of that, a lot of Americans are still in the middle of their own personal recessions—and those probably are not going away anytime soon.  For now, it is up to each individual to take care of their own tomorrow for themselves and their families.