My Two Cents

A lost decade?

Chris Farrell Jun 25, 2009

Economist Paul Krugman’s worries that when the U.S. economy emerges from recession the recovery will be reminiscent of Japan’s “lost decade”. The Japanese economy stagnated for years following the bursting of its real estate and stock market bubbles in 1989.

Here’s my question: Has the U.S. already lived through a “lost decade”?

1) Standard & Poor’s points out that the stock market is 39% from Dec. 31, 1999. The last negative decade was the 1930s. Annualized, stocks lost 5.12% so far this decade; in the 1930s they lost 5.26%.

2) The decade’s gains in residential real esate are almost gone.

3) I got the stock market numbers from David Henry of BusinessWeek at his blog, Unstructured Finance. He writes: “Some people said we should call this decade the oughts, for the two zeroes. The term didn’t catch on. Looking back, it is clear that the real oughts of the 2000s were that we ought not to have paid so much for internet stocks and that we ought not to have paid so much for big houses with granite counter-tops.”

4) It has been a lost decade for private sector jobs, too. In a very important post, Mike Mandel of BusinessWeek on his blog calculates notes that between “May 1999 and May 2009, employment in the private sector sector only rose by 1.1%, by far the lowest 10-year increase in the post-depression period.” Look at this chart and weep:

5) Real median household income is down for the decade.

My answer: It’s has been a lost decade. If Krugman’s right, we’re actually entering into our second lost decade.

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