Sunday, April 5, 2009

Say It Isn't So (Bad as 1982)

Time's Justin Fox has been among those holding the "not quite as bad as 1982" line, but with the latest employment report, he capitulates, and posts this scary chart: Indeed, this recession has really been a maneater, and that is also true if one looks at the change in the unemployment rate (relative to the 'local minima' around the business cycle peak dates): Nonetheless, I can't go for that, because (as I've discussed previously) the horrors of the early-1980's economy can only be appreciated by looking at the 1980 and 1981-82 recessions in tandem. While Fox's chart shows that payroll employment did recover in late 1980, the unemployment rate really didn't, and the combined increase in the unemployment rate was still somewhat worse than what we've seen so far: And if we do match that total 4.9 point rise in the unemployment rate, it would take us to 9.6%, which is still considerably short of the 10.8% level reached at the end of 1982 (because we started from a low point of 4.7% in Nov. 2007, vs. 5.9% in Nov. 1979).

Economix has a useful "F.A.Q." on the unemployment data.

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