Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Naughtful Naughts: Unemployment

Just collecting up a bit more data on the Naughtful Naughts. I think we can all agree about one thing that went wrong in the Naughts was the collapse in the job market after mid-2007. Let's take a look at a couple of graphs:

Here's the annual unemployment rate from 1950 through 2009:

Ups and downs aplenty in there. A few items in that graph struck me:
  • Annual unemployment peaked in 1982 at 9.7 percent.
  • The lowest annual unemployment rate: 2.9% in 1953. That was 66 years ago.
  • Three long periods of declining unemployment rates: 1961-1969 (6.7% to 3.5%), 1982-1989 (9.7% to 5.3%), 1992 to 2000 (7.5% to 4.0%.)
  • None of the steep climbs over the last sixty years look as steep or as large as what we saw in the last few years of the decade. The annual rate for 2009 was 9.3 percent -- rapidly approaching the all-time high for the last sixty years.

So let's take a look at what happened the last ten years or so. Here's the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the months January 1999 to December 2009:

A few items of note:
  • The low point came in April 2000 at 3.7%.
  • The unemployment rate was 4.0% or below from September 1999 to January 2001.
  • We had a moderate increase from then until June 2003, 4.1% to a high of 6.4 percent.
  • That increase was followed by a long, steady decrease from July 2003 until May 2007 when it bottomed out at 4.3 percent.
  • The number of full-time workers in the United States peaked in July 2007 at 147,315,000.
  • Unemployment climbed slowly from then until June 2008 when it hit 5.5 percent.
  • After that, the job losses accelerated, hitting a peak of 11.1 percent in October 2009.
  • The rate dropped one-tenth of a percent in November 2009 (11.0%) and December 2009 (10.9%).
Did we hit a peak in October 2009, or just a bump in continued job loss? Time will tell.

All statistics courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting statistics, John.

    One thing I noticed in looking at the chart that you did not mention is the fact that throughout this first decade of the 21st Century, the unemployment rate never did get down to the low it was at in 2000.

    I remember wondering about this back in 2004 and 2005 when according to most of the economic stats being discussed, we were in a robust economy. So, what was it about the recovery from the 2001 recession that made it so feeble? The "jobless recovery" as it was called then.

    There is no doubt that no single culprit can account for the sluggish employment of the 2000s so far. Nonetheless, three candidates stand out as possibilities in my mind.

    Globalization and the shifting of employment goegraphically.

    A financial bubble that made things look a whole lot better than they really were all along.

    The continuing march of automation and increasing efficiency.