July 2010, David Rosnick

Since the Great Depression, the worst episode of unemployment came in the second half of 1982 and the first half of 1983. Over that time, the unemployment rate stayed above ten percent from September through June—reaching 10.8 percent of the labor force in November and December of 1982. A naïve examination of the raw unemployment rates would suggest that the downturn of the early 1980s resulted in a labor market even weaker than what we have experienced as a result of the collapse of the housing bubble. However, the demographics of the labor force have changed significantly over the last quarter century. After adjusting for the aging of the population since the early 1980s, the current labor-market downturn has resulted in both a higher unemployment rate and a longer period when the rate of unemployment remained over 10 percent.

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