Recession historians on Wall Street often consider a downturn over when job declines fall to half their peak.
The July employment report, with its revisions, takes us past this milestone. The numbers were better than expected in almost every respect. There was even a tick up in hours worked, especially in manufacturing. The output component of the recession has probably already ended.
Even so, the labor market is likely to remain grim for a very long time. That a decline in payrolls of 247,000 should be taken as good news is an indication of how bad things have become. Such falls were close to the average in most postwar recessions, not an indication that the worst was over.
In the recession of the early 1980s, the peak job loss was 389,000. In this recession it has been around 740,000. So we are still on a different trajectory. The United States may continue to bleed jobs at a fast pace for some time to come.