So how does the current recovery stack up against other recoveries? One measure that seems meaningful to me is real disposable income per capita - rather than staring blankly at aggregate measures that ignore population growth - what kind of purchasing power to individuals have after the necessities? (and even this ignores distribution issues)
So courtesy of the good people at BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis) we have here Series A229RX0, Real Disposable Personal Income: Per capita in chained 2005 dollars. I've smoothed it a bit with a three month moving average to reduce the noise.
Now I wanted to look at year over year changes (yes yes even though this is a seasonally adjusted series) to see what kind of annual growth is being experienced in this measure of economic well being.
So things look a bit anemic for the last several months.
And the question occurred to me, how to compare the year over year performance of this measure over the course of this recovery in comparison to other recoveries, so I normalized to the start dates of the respective recoveries since 1980. One note, as we are in month 31 of the current recovery, when we index the 1980 recovery the subsequent 31 months include the entire second recession of the "double dip".
The thing that really grabbed me I've highlighted in the callout is that the 1980 recovery outperformed the current recovery with respect to this metric - by 70% for the period of the second recession - that is, real per capita disposable income growth in the second recession of the "double dip" outpaced the growth in the current recovery over 70% of the time during the period of the second recession, and 84% of the time over the course of the entire 31 months that corresponds to the latest data point available in the current recovery, January, 2012.
Finally, I have to wonder what this looks like when it is broken out by income quintiles...