The economic recovery started in June, 2009. I forgot all about its second birthday, which came and went last month without much fanfare.
No wonder. Since the start of the recovery, U.S. home prices have fallen by about 10 percent. And the total number of jobs nationwide has risen by only 500,000 — a gain of less than half of one percent, not even enough to keep up with population growth.
GDP growth, bank lending, disposable income, and personal spending have also fared much more poorly than in previous recoveries, this morning's WSJ reports. (This WSJ graphic compares the current recovery to previous recoveries.)
There are a couple of measures where the recovery has been strong. Exports are way up, driven by the weaker dollar and by strong demand from emerging markets. And corporate profits are growing fast.
But the rise in exports and corporate profits clearly hasn't led to the kind of job growth that would make the economy feel healthy again.
Considering the magnitude of the credit bubble that preceded the bust, that's not terribly surprising. Household debt — particularly mortgage debt — is still very high. And consumer spending growth, a key driver of the U.S. economy is still anemic.
One recent study compared the recent boom and bust to previous financial crises, and suggested that the economy might not fully recover until 2017.
Given all the grim news, why is this even a recovery? A recovery doesn't necessarily mean things are good. It means things are improving. And over the past two years, the economy been growing (slowly) rather than shrinking, and the number of jobs has been rising (slowly) rather than falling.
Here's more from the NBER's business cycle dating committee, the group that officially determines when we're in a recession and when we're in a recovery.