The current recession that began in late 2007 is the worst economic downturn in the post-war era. The unemployment rate has reached double digits for the first time in 25 years. Between November 2008 and April 2009, the economy shed an average of 645,000 jobs a month, and the numbers of workers were going without work for longer periods of time rose to record levels. Home foreclosures and hunger have also reached historically high levels.
Congress responded to the recession with the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the “stimulus bill,” which provided boosts in funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, among the other, more publicized, financial provisions. Job loss, underemployment and unemployment continued throughout the year, to a low point of 10.2% unemployment in November. Some economists, however, point to a rebounding stock market as evidence that the recession is over. Whether or not this is the case economically speaking, unemployment is one of the last numbers to improve, meaning that the recession continues for millions of out-of-work Americans.
In 2008, 13.2% of Americans lived in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, up from 12.5% in 2007. This is the first statistically significant annual increase since 2004, and marks the highest poverty rate in the United States since 1997. During the same year, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that 17 million households, or 14.6%, were food insecure – an increase of 4 million households from 2007. In January 2010, a record 39,430,724 people participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamp program.