Early 1990s recession in the United States
- This article focuses on the 1990-91 recession in the United States, for worldwide impact see early 1990s recession.
The United States entered recession in July 1990, which lasted 8 months through March 1991. Although the recession was mild relative to other post-war recessions, it was characterized by a sluggish employment recovery, most commonly referred to as a jobless recovery. Unemployment continued to rise through June 1992, even though economic growth had returned the previous year.
Belated recovery from the 1990-1991 recession contributed to Bill Clinton's victory in the 1992 presidential election, during which Clinton successfully articulated slow economic growth against incumbent president George H. W. Bush.
Throughout 1989 and 1990, the economy was weakening as a result of restrictive monetary policy enacted by the Federal Reserve. At the time, the stated policy of the Fed was to reduce inflation, a process which limited economic expansion. The Savings and Loans Crisis of 1989 put the financial well-being of millions of Americans at risk, requiring a bailout from the federal government to the tune of $200 billion. The S&L Crisis also put an end to the real estate bubble that had begun around 1984. Lending standards tightend and credit was harder to come by. Measurable changes in GDP growth began to emerge in the first quarter of 1990, however, overall growth remained positive. The immediate cause of the recession was a loss of consumer and business confidence as a result of the 1990 oil price shock, coupled with an already weak economy.
July 1990 marked the end of what was at the time the longest peacetime economic expansion in U.S. history (only 1991-2001 and 1961-1969 were longer). Prior to the onset of the early 1990s recession, the nation enjoyed robust job growth and a declining unemployment rate. The Labor Department estimates that as a result of the recession, the economy shed 1.623 million jobs or 1.3% of non-farm payrolls. The bulk of these losses were in construction and manufacturing. Among the hardest hit regions were the New England states and the west coast, while the Midwest and south central were less affected.
Job losses and unemployment continued to rise and peaked at 7.8% in June 1992. Gross domestic product grew at a slow and erratic pace in the year that followed the official March 1991 end of the recession, but picked up pace in 1992. Exports, typically a driver of economic recovery, weakened due to persistent economic problems in Europe and Japan. Perhaps the largest impact on the protracted period of unemployment following the early 90s recession were large layoffs in defense related industries. Cumulative defense downsizing resulted in 240,000 job losses from 1990–1992, representing a full 10% reduction in that sector. These cutbacks also spilled over into transportation, wholesale, trade, and other sectors tied to defense related durable goods manufacturing. For all of 1991, the United States incurred a net loss of 858,000 jobs, with 1.154 million created in 1992 and 2.788 million in 1993.
Other factors contributed to a slow economy, including a slump in office construction resulting from overbuilding during the 1980s. Local markets in the New England states, Southern California, and Texas in particular experienced the effects of commercial overbuilding, reflected in the number of bank failures and the proportion of commercial investments held by those banks.Real estate values would remain depressed through 1995, when they would return to growth.  In addition, consumer confidence moved at an erratic pace, limiting the surge in consumption expenditures that is typical of recovery periods. As a result, businesses were reluctant to hire on concerns over the strength of the economic recovery.
- "NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee Determines that Recession Ended in March 1991". NBER. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Gardner, Jennifer M. (1994). "The 1990-1991 Recession: How Bad was the Labor Market?". Monthly Labor Review (Bureau of Labor Statistics) 117 (6): 3–11. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Smith, Lisa. "Jobless Recovery: The New Normal Since 1990". Investopedia. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Carl E. Walsh (1993). "What Caused the 1990–1991 Recession". Economic Review (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco) (2).
- Dzialo, Mary C.; Shank, Susan E.; Smith, David C. (1993). "Atlantic and Pacific Coasts' Labor Markets Hit Hard in the Early 1990s". Monthly Labor Review (Bureau of Labor Statistics) 116 (2): 32–39. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Hardone, Thomas; Herz, Diane; Mellor, Earl; Hipple, Steven (1993). "1992: Job Market in the Doldrums". Monthly Labor Review (Bureau of Labor Statistics) 116 (2): 3–14. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Gardner, Jennifer M.; Hipple, Steven; Nardone, Thomas (1994). "The Labor Market Improves in 1993". Monthly Labor Review (Bureau of Labor Statistics) 117 (2): 3–13. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- Burton, Steven (1998). Bank Trends - Ranking the Risk of Overbuilding in Commercial Real Estate Markets.. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.