We think of the late 90s as being a great time for jobs and point to the internet and the New Economy as the cause. This intuition may be borne out by very careful analysis but a causal look at the data suggests something else

FRED Graph

This is my same cut, goods and government versus everything else, that I used but now we are looking at logs since 1970.

If anything the 90s show slightly slower job growth in the “everything else” category.

However, employment in goods and government hit an all time high in the late 90s after having stagnated for the previous 15 years and seen very little growth since 1969.

We can see a similar pattern in investment in transportation equipment.

transportation equipment

Flat line since the 1960s then a roaring boom through the 1990s, barely reaching its 90s peak during the naughts and then utter collapse during the Great Recession.

Yes, this chart indicates that investment – by private businesses – in transportation equipment during the Great Recession hit levels not seen since the bust in the 1970s and indeed lower than the strong quarters of 1969.

Additionally, you can see that while there is a strong roar back we have just recently passed the levels seen during the dot-com bust.