As I noted earlier this week, the recession seems to be easing its grip. In fits and starts, recovery is likely to get under way in coming months in most major economies. That is good news—especially compared to the gloom and fear earlier this year. But the bad news is that the social cost of the crisis is set to keep rising for some time. Unemployment—the symbol of the Great Depression—will get nowhere near the levels of the 1930s. But in advanced economies, jobless rates are already much higher than they have been for a long time.
The U.S. jobless numbers announced today give some encouragement, with a sharp decline in the number of jobs lost last month and an unexpected easing in the jobless rate. But, as a lagging indicator, unemployment worldwide is still expected to go on increasing well into 2010. The International Labor Organization thinks that as many as 50 million people could lose their jobs before this is all over. Of course, in emerging and low-income countries, where social safety nets are weak or non-existent, the human cost from unemployment is even higher.