This project was launched in response to the greatest sudden loss of employment in America in nearly 80 years. Between February of 2008 and February of 2010, nearly 9 million jobs were eliminated—wiping out all employment growth over the previous decade. The project was also launched because by the spring of 2011, two years into the weakest post-recession recovery since World War II, it was apparent that conventional policy responses, despite being implemented on an unprecedented scale—an $800 billion fiscal stimulus and 28 months of short-term interest rates near zero—had not produced the desired acceleration of economic growth and job creation.
Regrettably, two years later, the economic circumstances that gave rise to this project have only persisted. In 2012, the U.S. economy expanded at a lackluster 2.2 percent, with economic growth slowing to just 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter. And as of the spring of 2013, nearly 12 million Americans remain without work, another eight million are underemployed, and an estimated 4 million have simply given up looking for work. More than four years into the economic recovery, 15 percent of the American workforce—a fifth of American households—continue to suffer the worst effects of the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath. Moreover, at the current pace of job creation—a monthly average of just 180,000 new jobs—America will likely not return to pre-recession levels of employment until 2023.1
That’s the bad news. But there ...