Friday, December 5, 2008

Specter of '74

The November employment report from the BLS was not good. The unemployment rate is up to 6.7% (which is still lower than in most previous recessions). The Times reports:
The nation’s employers shed 533,000 jobs in November, the 11th consecutive monthly decline, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Not since December 1974, toward the end of a severe recession, have so many jobs disappeared in a single month, and the current recession appears to be just gathering steam.
Of course, the labor force is much bigger now than in 1974, so in percentage terms, the decline is considerably smaller. The November decrease was 0.4%; December 1974 was an 0.8% decrease, and there were declines of 0.5% in November 1974 and January and February 1975, as well as May 1980. There were also 0.4% decreases in March 1975, June 1980, and January and July 1982. Overall, the 1973-75 and 1980/81-82 recessions featured several months with decreases in employment comparable to or larger than November 2008. However, as David Leonhardt notes, the rise in the unemployment rate was made smaller by a large decrease in the labor force, which suggests that some people are giving up on finding a job. The labor force participation rate fell by 0.3 percentage points to 65.8%.

I see the FRED folks have added a shaded area...

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