A Very Uneven Road: US Labor Markets in the Past 30 Years

Research Report

A Very Uneven Road: US Labor Markets in the Past 30 Years

April 30, 2012

Abstract

In this paper we use data from the Current Population Survey to summarize labor market trends in the U.S. over the past 30 years. First we focus on secular trends over the four years (and three cycles) that constitute labor market peaks during this period: 1979, 1989, 2000, and 2007. Then we consider peak-to-trough changes in employment outcomes for each of the four recessions that have occurred in this period, including the Great Recession. Overall we find great unevenness in labor market performance across cycles and across demographic groups. Inequality has widened dramatically and important structural changes have occurred.

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