The perception is widespread that the 1990-91 recession and the recovery to date differ in important ways from earlier U.S. business cycles. This note examines some of the evidence regarding these differences, focusing on shifts in the regional pattern of employment and unemployment, especially for New England.
The recovery from the recent recession has been unusually weak or gradual, especially in terms of employment. Moreover, the recession displayed an industry pattern noticeably different from earlier recessions. Partly as a result, white collar workers suffered more unemployment than is usual in a recession, and job losers were more likely to have been terminated from their jobs rather than temporarily laid off. In New England, where the slowdown has been longer and deeper, labor markets appear to be responding to the downturn in an unprecedented way, with sizable declines in dual job-holding and an increase in self-employment. A key question is whether these apparent changes in the operation of the job market will be reversed as the recovery continues to unfold.