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How the Great Recession Changed American Workers

[email protected]: “Technically speaking, the financial crisis of 2008, the biggest economic meltdown in the U.S. since the Great Depression, lasted a little more than 18 months, and ended long ago. From December 2007 to June 2009, the GDP contracted sharply, and then the economy began growing again. At ground level for many, though, the world has never been quite the same. “One in five employees lost their jobs at the beginning of the Great Recession. Many of those people never recovered; they never got real work again,” says Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli, director of the school’s Center for Human Resources. “The spike in disability claims was in part caused by the difficulty laid-off people had in securing any jobs. A generation of young people entering the job market had their careers disrupted by it. The fact that this age group continues to delay buying houses, having children, and other markers of stable, adult life is largely attributed to this.” “It was a very traumatic event. Vast numbers of lives were changed forever undoubtedly when you look at the economy as a whole,” says Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell.

The Great Recession accelerated a number of trends and arrested the development of others. “The fact that so many people took temporary jobs, often as contractors, was pushed along by the downturn, in part because employers were so unsure about the future but also because workers had no choice but to take them,” says Cappelli. “Good employee-management practices took a big step back during this period because employees were willing to put up with anything as long as they had a job.” What we could have taken away from the financial crisis was the resolve to take steps so that it should never happen again, Cappelli says. “But it’s easier to ignore that, so we are.”…

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