Only 56 percent of Americans laid off from January 2009 through December 2011 had found jobs by the start of this year, the Labor Department said Friday. More than half of them took jobs with lower pay. One-third took pay cuts of 20 percent or more.
The figures would be even lower if people who could find only part-time jobs were included in the total.
The report provides an illustration of the job market's persistent weakness well after the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. It also documents that while the economy has added nearly 3 million jobs since the recovery began, many pay less than those that were lost.
Laid-off workers always have a harder time finding new jobs than do people who quit. But since the government began tracking such data in 1984, people who lost jobs in a recovery haven't had it as hard as they did in the one that began three years ago.
And the pay cuts in their new jobs usually aren't so deep.
For example, in 2003-2005, a period that included a slow recovery, nearly 70 percent of those who were laid off found jobs. More than half who found full-time work in the three years ending in 2005 did so at the same or higher pay.
The government compiles data on laid-off workers every two years. The report covers only people who had worked at least three years in the same job before being laid off. In doing so, it focuses on those who had stable careers before they lost work.
The figures show some improvement compared with the previous report, which covered 2007 through 2009, coinciding with the Great Recession.
But compared with most other recoveries, "this is really bad," said Dean Baker, an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research.
Baker noted that of the 6.1 million people who lost jobs from 2009 through 2011, only 15 percent have found new ones with equal or higher pay. That compares with 25 percent in the three years before the recession.
"You were much more likely to be re-employed in 2007 at the same or higher wage than now," he said.