In response to some widely circulated and controversial charts of employment declines in major recent recessions, I took a look at the employment to population ratios. I looked at the recessions from an employment ratio perspective, starting at peak employment ratio and continuing until it recovered. The conclusions are somewhat surprising.
First, some recessions merge. The 1980 and 1981-82 recessions do, and we have never gotten out of the 2001 recession. 2001 on kind of looks like a Long Recession by this measure, and may be turning into a Long Depression. The current recession by itself (2007) does indeed show up as bad - it's the worst of all at 25 months. It's not quite as bad as the 1981-82, but it's very close, and it's worse than everything else, including 1974-75 (except of course 2001 with 2007 added on). Also, the lurch downward over the past 7 months is unprecedented and worse than anything else, although the 1974 lurch down is very close. Another bad month will make the 2007 recession unsurpassed.