The reason there were 8 million additional jobs back in 2007 is that demand for goods and services was artificially – and unsustainably – inflated by cheap, plentiful credit. Between 2002 and 2007, household debt was increasing at the torrid pace of more than 10 percent annually, while business debt and the debt of state and local governments was growing at an average of 9 percent. Much of that money was used to finance present consumption.
Now all that has reversed. Household debt is shrinking at a rate of 2.4 percent per year as the savings rate has risen from nearly zero to more than 5 percent. Meanwhile, business debt declined 2.5 percent last year and is now flat, as is the case for state and local governments.
All that deleveraging and living within our means is obviously a good thing in the long run. But what it means for the economy in the short run is that neither the excess consumption nor the jobs it supported are coming back.