Have those of you who lived through the early 80's been scratching your heads at sensationalistic headlines such as "worst year of job losses since WWII?" You have reason to. As several news organizations compete for attention, they have brushed aside a relevant metric that makes headlines on job losses less apocalyptic population growth. As the nation's population increases, it should not surprise us if each recession has more job losses than the one before.
As a percent of total nonfarm employment, job losses of 1.9% made 2008 the worst year since 1982, which experienced losses of 2.3%. It is not the worst year since 1945, which experienced losses of 6.6%. 2008 was certainly a terrible year. However, reporting absolute gain/loss rather than the % gain/loss is about as meaningful as a headline that reads 'Dow Jones declines in 2008 by more than ten times the decline from the 1929 peak to the trough of the great depression.'
For more details on employment trends, check out our December employment bulletin.