More than 650,000 U.S. Jobs Eliminated in February

Since the beginning of 2008, more than 4.4 million jobs have vanished from the U.S. economy, pushing the unemployment rate to 8.1%. To appreciate the depth of the unemployment picture, it helps to look at an actual picture — such as the one drawn today on the home page of The Wall Street Journal. It shows that not only have the number of unemployed grown, but that in nine of the 14 months since the official beginning of the recession in December 2007, the monthly gains were greater than the gain in the preceding month. The graphic also shows more than one measure of unemployment, including the often overlooked "augmented" rate, which includes workers so discouraged by their job search that they have stopped looking. That rate is a whopping 14.8% of the workforce, compared to 8.7% in December 2007.

Unfortunately, such graphics can't show when the job picture will improve. But most economists and other experts are suggesting that the recession will slog on through this year, ahead of a slow recovery sometime in 2010. At a recent University of Pennsylvania forum on the financial crisis, Wharton finance professor Richard Marston had these words for the many students in the audience: "You're going to want to hope that you're a sophomore, because as far as jobs are concerned, I think it's going to be a bad job market through 2010."

Other panelists at the forum, covered by Knowledge at Wharton, had equally gloomy forecasts, including some who suggested that it may be time to rethink the once unlimited credit and tax breaks to bolster the American dream of home ownership. Said Penn political science professor Jennifer Amyx: "There's no society around the globe, no country where you could talk about the sub prime mortgage issue — about the way Americans could get mortgages — and have any empathy for what's happening right now in the United States. It's abnormal, and we need to change expectations."