To see how far reaching the recession is, look no further than the Chicago Public Library.
Before the recession, the library system loaned out roughly 7 million books, CDs and movies a year. But today, the annual lending rate has skyrocketed to 9.8 million.
"Honestly, what we've seen is that people have been reevaluating their spending. There's kind of this rediscovery of the library and realizing that that same best-seller you want to go buy at the bookstore … you can get at the library," said Ruth Lednicer, spokeswoman for the library system. "If you can get it on DVD from Netflix, you can get it from the library."
It's just one of the many ways Americans are adjusting to their new economic reality.
Since the recession started in December 2007, consumers have cut back on vacations, stopped buying cars and run from the real estate market.
And who can blame them? They've seen their retirement savings dwindle, their home values drop and the national debt soar.
To give a further sense of just how much America has changed since the start of the recession, ABC News has taken a look at some key economic indicators and some not-so-likely ones. Here's a snapshot of the economy before and after the recession:
|Two Years Ago||Last Year||Today|
|Monthly Home Foreclosures||148,425||233,001||274,399|
|Unemployment Rate||4.6 percent||4.9 percent||7.6 percent|
|Number of Unemployed||7 million||7.6 million||11.6 million|
|Dow Jones Industrial Average||12,114.10||12,258.90||6,726.02|
|Value of Americans' 401(k) Savings||$2.7 trillion||$3 trillion||$2.4 trillion|
|People on Food Stamps||26.3 million||27.3 million||31.1 million|
|Chicago Public Library Circulation||7.4 million||7.8 million||9.8 million|
|Money Loaned for Mortgages||$2.7 Billion||$2.3 Billion||$1.7 Billion|
|Number of Homes Sold||7.3 million||5.5 million||4.8 million|
|Median Home Price||$211,000||$199,800||$170,300|
|National Debt||$8.8 trillion||$9.4 trillion||$10.9 trillion|
|Monthly Car Sales||1,090,925||1,043,947||656,976|
|Percent of Cars Sold by the Big Three||50.1%||51.2%||42.6%|
|Bank Failures in February||1||0||10|
|Annual Personal Bankruptcy Filings||823,405||1,115,486||1,504,634|
|Monthly Airline Passengers||60.3 million||61.9 million||54 million|
|Outstanding Credit Card Debt||$902.3 billion||$969.6 billion||$994.4 billion|
Sources: RealtyTrac, Labor Department, Employee Benefit Research Institute, Department of Agriculture, Chicago Public Library, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors, Treasury Department, Autodata Corp., FDIC, Bankruptcy Data Project at Harvard, Department of Transportation and the Federal Reserve. Figures are for the most recent period of data available.
"We've woken from a daydream. We've been walking around as zombies and basically believed that everything was possible and nothing would harm us as a consequence of what we did," said Martin Lindstrom, a brand futurist and author of "Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy."
"We're not taking things for granted anymore," he said.
Lindstrom said that the wake-up call is actually "incredibly healthy."