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The Recovery from the Great Recession: A Long, Evolving Expansion


  • Shambaugh, Jay C.

    (George Washington University)

  • Strain, Michael R.

    (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research)


Prior to 2020, the Great Recession was the most important macroeconomic shock to the United States economy in generations. Millions lost jobs and homes. At its peak, one in ten workers who wanted a job could not find one. On an annual basis, the economy contracted by more than it had since the Great Depression. A slow and steady recovery followed the Great Recession's official end in the summer of 2009, but because it was slow and the depth of the recession so deep, it took years to reduce slack in labor markets. But because the slow-and-steady recovery lasted so long, many pre-recession peaks were exceeded, and eventually real wage growth began to accumulate for workers across the distribution. In fact, the business cycle (including recession and recovery) beginning in December 2007 was one of the better periods of real wage growth in many decades, with the bulk of that coming in the last years of the recovery. We place the Great Recession in historical context and trace the path of the recovery, studying its different phases and how different groups of workers were impacted in each phase. We also discuss the response of fiscal and monetary policy to the Great Recession, and draw lessons for the future.

Suggested Citation

  • Shambaugh, Jay C. & Strain, Michael R., 2021. "The Recovery from the Great Recession: A Long, Evolving Expansion," IZA Discussion Papers 14017, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp14017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Òscar Jordá & Moritz Schularick & Alan M. Taylor, 2016. "Sovereigns Versus Banks: Credit, Crises, and Consequences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 45-79.
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    3. Edward P. Lazear & James R. Spletzer, 2012. "The United States labor market: status quo or a new normal?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 405-451.
    4. Mary C. Daly & Bart Hobijn, 2017. "Composition and Aggregate Real Wage Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 349-352, May.
    5. Lawrence H Summers, 2014. "U.S. Economic Prospects: Secular Stagnation, Hysteresis, and the Zero Lower Bound," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan;National Association for Business Economics, vol. 49(2), pages 65-73, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Leila Bengali & Mary C. Daly & Olivia Lofton & Robert G. Valletta, 2021. "The Economic Status of People with Disabilities and Their Families since the Great Recession," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 695(1), pages 123-142, May.
    2. Erica L. Groshen & Harry J. Holzer, 2021. "Labor Market Trends and Outcomes: What Has Changed since the Great Recession?," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 695(1), pages 49-69, May.
    3. Richard V. Burkhauser & Kevin Corinth & Douglas Holtz-Eakin, 2021. "Policies to Help the Working Class in the Aftermath of COVID-19: Lessons from the Great Recession," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, , vol. 695(1), pages 314-330, May.
    4. Haapanala, Henri & Marx, Ive & Parolin, Zachary, 2022. "Decent Wage Floors in Europe: Does the Minimum Wage Directive Get It Right?," IZA Discussion Papers 15660, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item


    Great Recession; economic recovery; wage growth; labor force participation; fiscal policy; monetary policy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E00 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - General
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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