NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

This Expansion Has Been Weak

October 18, 1998

Next month, the 1990s expansion becomes the second-longest since World War II -- surpassing that of the 1980s. And early next year, if a recession does not intervene, this expansion will become the longest since the war -- finally beating out, in terms of longevity, the great 1960s expansion.

But economic growth during the 1990s has not been a barn-burner. In fact, growth during the '90s has been weaker than during any growth cycle since the end of the war.

  • Inflation-adjusted income for most U.S. households is no higher today than it was in 1989 -- when the last expansion ended.
  • While the job market is strong today, layoffs are running ahead of 1980s levels.
  • Business has invested heavily in the 1990s, but not as much as in earlier expansions.
  • People are working more hours, economists report, just to restore household incomes and the poverty rate to levels which existed before the last recession.

Compared with performance in past expansions, both productivity gains and economic growth have been tepid.

Source: Louis Uchitelle, "Muscleman, Or 98-Pound Weakling," New York Times, October 18, 1998.


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