He's looking. She's looking. Nearly 14 million other Americans who are out of work are looking. All this even though the nation officially exited recession more than two years ago.
With the exception of August, the economy generally has been adding at least some new jobs each month, so it's not entirely accurate to call this a "jobless recovery," a name that's been used for tepid job markets after the two most recent recessions, those ending in 1991 and 2001. But it could be that the slow recovery symbolizes something just as troubling: a "less jobs economy," one with a set of deeper challenges that may mean it will be years before the United States gets back to anything near full employment.
Certainly the current moment differs sharply from past recoveries from recession since World War II. It's different in its depth, with 6 percent of all US jobs disappearing. It's different in its duration, with the nation still nowhere near regaining those lost jobs two years later. (See chart, page 30.)
And the question of what's wrong is all the more important now because of new worries that the US is close to tipping back into recession. That could be particularly debilitating given the high level of unemployment and concerns that policymakers have already used much of their available ammunition in efforts to revive growth.
So what's going on?
Some economists say it's a simple but harsh reality: Rebounding after a financial crisis simply takes longer than a typical recovery from recession. This is the first time America has been through such a process since the Great Depression. No doubt this explains a lot of the problem, when you factor in the crisis-related issues of high debts (public and private) and a housing market still hobbled by foreclosures and "underwater" mortgages, where the loan balance outweighs the value of the house. After all, recovery from recession usually happens in part because people and businesses can take out new loans and because home building resuscitates.