Explaining the lack of vim is simple. The US entered the recession with a number of structural weaknesses, and these have been aggravated rather than ameliorated by a long period of sub-par growth, according to the annual health check by the fund.
There was much comment earlier this month when the employment data showed that the number of people with jobs was back to pre-recession levels. In truth, this was no great achievement as the population is steadily rising. The labour participation rate, which was on a declining trend even before the financial crisis, is more than three percentage points lower than it was a decade ago.
A shortage of jobs creates two further problems. The slack in the labour market means it is hard for workers to secure pay rises. But the lack of a European-style welfare state means that those without work fall into poverty.
The official poverty measure shows the number living below the breadline has increased by 50% to more than 45 million since the turn of the millennium. The IMF thinks the number in poverty could be closer to 50 million - around one in six of the population. With the fund estimating that America's trend rate of growth has fallen to 2%, this figure is likely to climb rather than fall.
This weak recovery by American standards is made all the more disappointing by the unprecedented amount of stimulus provided by the Federal Reserve - through quantitative easing and low interest rates- and the boost provided by plentiful new supplies of cheap energy.
Arresting this slide in economic performance will not be easy.
First, the Fed needs to find a way of stimulating economic activity without creating the sort of asset bubbles that might trigger a second financial crash. A smarter fiscal policy - in which the Obama administration invested in infrastructure and education - would help take some of the pressure off monetary policy.
But a second - equally important -imperative is to make work pay. In the short term, that will require an increase in the minimum wage and more generous tax credits. In the longer-term, it means full employment, higher labour market participation, higher skill levels and a more redistributive tax system.
Most Popular Stories
- Americans Still Pessimistic Despite Economic Growth
- Cantwell Targets Gender Gap in Small-Business Loans
- Parra Joins Exclusive Club of Hispanic CEOs
- Apple to Unveil New Items on Sept. 9
- Axxis Solutions Appoints Benites as CEO
- Josh Gordon Loses Appeal, Out for Season
- Pending Home Sales in U.S. Rise in Hopeful Sign
- Visual Search Sounds Cool, Remains Elusive
- Texans Look for Perry-Cruz Showdown in 2016
- Chrysler Gets Nod as a Top Employer for Hispanic Women