House Republicans often ask this question: Where are the jobs? The Wall Street Journal takes a look:
The U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs in March. That sounds impressive until you look more closely. At least a third of them were temporary government hires to take the census—better than no job but hardly worth writing home about. The 112,000 real new jobs were fewer than the 150,000 needed to keep up with the growth of the U.S. population. It's far better than it was—we're not hemorrhaging jobs as we did in 2008 and 2009—but the bleeding hasn't stopped.
Since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, the economy has shed 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million required by an ever-larger pool of potential workers. That leaves us more than 11 million jobs behind. (The number is worse if you include everyone working part-time who'd rather it be full-time, those working full-time at fewer hours, and people who are overqualified for the jobs they're in.) This means even if we enjoy a vigorous recovery that produces, say, 300,000 net new jobs a month, we could be looking at five to eight years before catching up to where we were before the recession began.
Given how many Americans are unemployed or underemployed, it's hard to see where we get sufficient demand to support a vigorous recovery. Outlays from the federal stimulus have already passed their peak, and the Federal Reserve won't keep interest rates near zero for very long. Although consumers are beginning to come out of their holes, it will be many years before they can return to their pre-recession levels of spending. Most households rely on two wage earners, of whom at least one is now likely to be unemployed, underemployed or in danger of losing a job. And even households whose incomes have returned are likely to be residing in houses whose values haven't—which means they can't turn their homes into cash machines as they did before the recession.
While consumers have been shedding their debts like mad—often simply by defaulting on loans—their remaining burdens are still heavy. At the end of last year, debt averaged $43,874 per American, or about 122% of annual disposable income. Most analysts believe a sustainable debt load is around 100% of disposable income, assuming a normal level of employment and normal access to credit—neither of which we are likely to have for some time.