March 9, 2009: Remembering how bad it got

dbarkin@newsobserver.comMarch 5, 2014 

Sunday is the five-year anniversary of a really bad day. On March 9, 2009, the stock market hit bottom during the Great Recession. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 6,547.05. The Dow had dropped nearly 54 percent since October 2007.

We did not know on that dismal March day that we were at an inflection point. Things just seemed awful, with no end in sight to the bad news. The economy had been going steadily downhill since the recession started in December 2007, but then it seized up something terrible in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed, adding more chaos to the crisis in the global financial system. Banks were afraid to make overnight loans to other banks, not knowing whether they were going to get their money back. Companies started hoarding cash and were hesitant in the extreme to spend money; employees were being laid off left and right.

During one ghastly stretch, from November 2008 through March 2009, the economy was averaging job losses of 670,000 a month.

Today, there is grumbling that the economy hasn’t created enough new jobs. ADP, a major payroll processor, says 139,000 private sector jobs were added in February. (We’ll see if the Bureau of Labor Statistics number agrees at 8:30 Friday morning.) Wall Street wanted more, but I will take that, considering where we’ve been. I think we forget how scary bad it got.

Today, the Dow closed at 16,360, some 9,800 points higher than the 2009 low. I’ll take that, too.

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