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Most economists forecast that a recovery, when it comes, will be so sluggish that the unemployment rate will continue to rise for some time after the economy begins to expand again.

The sluggish expansion “will not look like the end of the recession to people since we will continue to see employment losses,” Mr. Mishel said.

Employment continued to fall long after the last recession ended in November 2001. In fact, Mr. Mishel noted, it wasn’t until April 2004, a lengthy 29 months later, that employment finally returned to its November 2001 level, which was the trough of the recession.