First, I think you're overestimating the reach of the economic recovery. In aggregate things got better, but this was not universal. If you were a 40-year-old man in the midwest with no education past high school, your job prospects did not bounce back the way a 25-year-old with a master's degree's did.
But beyond that, it's a mistake to couch this in solely economic terms. There's a lot more going on than that, and I think there are often situations where our broader political language does not have the capability of describing it. I recently re-read this essay on James C. Scott's Seeing Like a State. One of the key points is regarding legibility, and what happens when groups within a society simply cannot understand one another. After pointing out some researching showing the remarkably positive effects that a high density of "co-religionists" has on a community, the essay continues:
I know this is hard, but imagine actually being a conservative Christian in a dying town. Everything I just described is going away, nothing seems able to replace it, and things are just getting worse. The most noticeable difference by far is going to be “cultural” – what language would you use? “Loss of faith and family” is actually pretty apt. Let’s say that their arguments are identical to mine, just shrouded in local language. Fine – all that means is that In the final analysis, the conservative christian recognizes that they’re being deprived even of the power to complain, which is to say, even of the power to explain their powerlessness.
So when you talk about people thinking in "very bizarre and nonsensical ways," I think this is what you're really talking about. It really was people not being heard, but it wasn't that no one was listening, it's that the broader population didn't know how.
Because remember, populism doesn't have to look like Trump. Populist parties starting winning elections like crazy all over the western world after the Great Recession. But again, it wasn't just conservatives. For every Trump or Le Pen you also have a Syriza or Podemos.