Historical data on US unemployment:75 months ago unemployment was 5.8 %

One of the most important features of a recession is the length of time it takes for the unemployment rate once elevated to return to its pre recession lows. The US Bureau of Labor statistics fortunately keeps an excellent time series on monthly unemployment percentages that makes the task of data discovery easy..When we consult this series we see that the last time unemployment was as low as 5.8 % was July 2008. 75 months earlier.So the lasting lesson from a recession is that you should do everything possible to avoid them because the negative impact from them lasts a long time. If we compare the more than four years prior to July 2008 we can also see that the unemployment rate was below 5.8 %, in many months well below it for most of that period. One has to go back from July 2008 to March 2004 to find unemployment again as high as 5.8 %. So if things are to go well then the unemployment rate needs to drop below 5.0 % and stay there for an extended period of time to heal the economy further.For the entire period 1980 to October 2014 a period of 418 months there have been 76 months where unemployment was below 5 %.(Note to the reader if for some reason the link does not work simply go to the US bureau of Labour stats and request the historical time series for monthly unemployment 1980 to 2014.I reproduce it here below courtesy of the US bureau of Labour Statistics)

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
1980 6.3 6.3 6.3 6.9 7.5 7.6 7.8 7.7 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.2
1981 7.5 7.4 7.4 7.2 7.5 7.5 7.2 7.4 7.6 7.9 8.3 8.5
1982 8.6 8.9 9.0 9.3 9.4 9.6 9.8 9.8 10.1 10.4 10.8 10.8
1983 10.4 10.4 10.3 10.2 10.1 10.1 9.4 9.5 9.2 8.8 8.5 8.3
1984 8.0 7.8 7.8 7.7 7.4 7.2 7.5 7.5 7.3 7.4 7.2 7.3
1985 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.3 7.2 7.4 7.4 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.0 7.0
1986 6.7 7.2 7.2 7.1 7.2 7.2 7.0 6.9 7.0 7.0 6.9 6.6
1987 6.6 6.6 6.6 6.3 6.3 6.2 6.1 6.0 5.9 6.0 5.8 5.7
1988 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.4 5.6 5.4 5.4 5.6 5.4 5.4 5.3 5.3
1989 5.4 5.2 5.0 5.2 5.2 5.3 5.2 5.2 5.3 5.3 5.4 5.4
1990 5.4 5.3 5.2 5.4 5.4 5.2 5.5 5.7 5.9 5.9 6.2 6.3
1991 6.4 6.6 6.8 6.7 6.9 6.9 6.8 6.9 6.9 7.0 7.0 7.3
1992 7.3 7.4 7.4 7.4 7.6 7.8 7.7 7.6 7.6 7.3 7.4 7.4
1993 7.3 7.1 7.0 7.1 7.1 7.0 6.9 6.8 6.7 6.8 6.6 6.5
1994 6.6 6.6 6.5 6.4 6.1 6.1 6.1 6.0 5.9 5.8 5.6 5.5
1995 5.6 5.4 5.4 5.8 5.6 5.6 5.7 5.7 5.6 5.5 5.6 5.6
1996 5.6 5.5 5.5 5.6 5.6 5.3 5.5 5.1 5.2 5.2 5.4 5.4
1997 5.3 5.2 5.2 5.1 4.9 5.0 4.9 4.8 4.9 4.7 4.6 4.7
1998 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.4
1999 4.3 4.4 4.2 4.3 4.2 4.3 4.3 4.2 4.2 4.1 4.1 4.0
2000 4.0 4.1 4.0 3.8 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.1 3.9 3.9 3.9 3.9
2001 4.2 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.3 4.5 4.6 4.9 5.0 5.3 5.5 5.7
2002 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.9 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.9 6.0
2003 5.8 5.9 5.9 6.0 6.1 6.3 6.2 6.1 6.1 6.0 5.8 5.7
2004 5.7 5.6 5.8 5.6 5.6 5.6 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.5 5.4 5.4
2005 5.3 5.4 5.2 5.2 5.1 5.0 5.0 4.9 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.9
2006 4.7 4.8 4.7 4.7 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4
2007 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4 4.6 4.7 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 5.0
2008 5.0 4.9 5.1 5.0 5.4 5.6 5.8 6.1 6.1 6.5 6.8 7.3
2009 7.8 8.3 8.7 9.0 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.6 9.8 10.0 9.9 9.9
2010 9.7 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.6 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.8 9.4
2011 9.1 9.0 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.8 8.6 8.5
2012 8.2 8.3 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.1 7.8 7.8 7.8 7.9
2013 7.9 7.7 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.0 6.7
2014 6.6 6.7 6.7 6.3 6.3 6.1 6.2 6.1 5.9 5.8

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About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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