Job losses: Ever Closer to 1982

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The job market is getting ever closer to the depths that it reached in 1982.

Since the start of 2008, the economy has lost jobs at a steeper rate than at any other point in 50 years. That hadn’t been true until today’s report. But the 651,000 job losses in February — together with 161,000 additional job losses in previous months, a result of Labor Department revisions announced today — means that the decline is worse than it was at any point during the deep recessions of the mid-1970s and of the early 1980s.

The economy has now lost 3.2 percent of its jobs since January 2007. It lost 3.1 percent between the summer of 1981 and the end of 1982.

The job market still is not in as bad shape as it was in 1982, because unemployment entering this downturn was somewhat lower than it was in 1981. But it’s getting close.

The government’s broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment was 14.8 percent in February. That includes some of the people who have stopped looking for work because they don’t believe they can find jobs. It also includes part-time workers who want to be working full time.

The Labor Department did not keep such a statistic in the early 1980s. But it likely would have been in the neighborhood of 17 percent then. (Awhile back, I created a similar — though slightly narrower, for reasons of historical consistency — measure, with help from Labor Department economists. It peaked in 1982 at 16.3 percent in December 1982; it was 14.1 percent last month.)

So it’s still too early to call this the worst recession since the Great Depression. But it’s bad, and it’s still getting worse at a rapid rate.

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John Olerud - 3/9/2009

I don't remember massive intervention by President Reagan in 1982, the worst post Great Depression recession in U.S. history. We didn't need a world war to pull us out of that one.

charley danielson - 3/8/2009

All one has to do is look at the fundamentals of our economy and know the train is crashing.

How can anyone expect our currency, rejected by Sadam and most likely why USA went to war. Already scheduled before the towers by congress. Since then six more countries have rejected the dollar. Russia calling for rejection now and China forming currency deals with the Asia countries.

When rejected from excessive government inflationary, printed money. Hyper-inflation will set in. Not allowing Americans to buy abroad or afford many products here as they will then be exported for more money.

Do you think then-job losses will be 35% and those with jobs will live for existence?