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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain historical patterns of unemployment in the U.S.
  • Identify trends of unemployment based on demographics
  • Evaluate global unemployment rates

Let’s look at how unemployment rates have changed over time and how various groups of people are affected by unemployment differently.

The historical u.s. unemployment rate

[link] shows the historical pattern of U.S. unemployment since 1955.

The u.s. unemployment rate, 1955–2015

The line graph reveals that, over the past 60-plus years, unemployment rates have continued to fluctuate with the highest rates of unemployment occurring around 1982 and 2010.
The U.S. unemployment rate moves up and down as the economy moves in and out of recessions. But over time, the unemployment rate seems to return to a range of 4% to 6%. There does not seem to be a long-term trend toward the rate moving generally higher or generally lower. (Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/LRUN64TTUSA156S0)

As we look at this data, several patterns stand out:

  1. Unemployment rates do fluctuate over time. During the deep recessions of the early 1980s and of 2007–2009, unemployment reached roughly 10%. For comparison, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the unemployment rate reached almost 25% of the labor force.
  2. Unemployment rates in the late 1990s and into the mid-2000s were rather low by historical standards. The unemployment rate was below 5% from 1997 to 2000 and near 5% during almost all of 2006–2007. The previous time unemployment had been less than 5% for three consecutive years was three decades earlier, from 1968 to 1970.
  3. The unemployment rate never falls all the way to zero. Indeed, it never seems to get below 3%—and it stays that low only for very short periods. (Reasons why this is the case are discussed later in this chapter.)
  4. The timing of rises and falls in unemployment matches fairly well with the timing of upswings and downswings in the overall economy. During periods of recession    and depression    , unemployment is high. During periods of economic growth, unemployment tends to be lower.
  5. No significant upward or downward trend in unemployment rates is apparent. This point is especially worth noting because the U.S. population nearly quadrupled from 76 million in 1900 to over 314 million by 2012. Moreover, a higher proportion of U.S. adults are now in the paid workforce, because women have entered the paid labor force in significant numbers in recent decades. Women composed 18% of the paid workforce in 1900 and nearly half of the paid workforce in 2012. But despite the increased number of workers, as well as other economic events like globalization and the continuous invention of new technologies, the economy has provided jobs without causing any long-term upward or downward trend in unemployment rates.

Unemployment rates by group

Unemployment is not distributed evenly across the U.S. population. [link] shows unemployment rates broken down in various ways: by gender, age, and race/ethnicity.

Unemployment rate by demographic group

Graph a shows the trends in unemployment rates by gender for the year 1972 to 2014. In 1972 the graph starts out at 6.6% for females. It jumps to 9.3% in 1975 for females, gradually goes back down until 2009, when it rises to 8.1%. It gradually lowers to 6.1% in 2014 for females. For males, it starts out at  around 5% in 1972, goes up and down periodically, and ends at 6.3% in 2014.  Graph b shows the trends in unemployment rates for women, by age for the year 1972 to 2014. In 1972, the graph starts out around 9% for women aged 20–24, goes up to 13.6% in 1975, and ends at 11.2% in 2014. In 1972, the graph starts out at 3.7% for women aged 25–54, jumps to 6.4% in 1975, and ends at around 5% in 2014. In 1972, the graph starts out around 3% for women aged 55 and over. It remains between 3–5% until 2010, when it jumps to 7%. In 2014, it drops down to 4.4%.  Graph c shows the trends in unemployment rates by race and ethnicity for the year 1972 to 2014. In 1972, the graph starts out at 10.4% for blacks, rises to nearly 15% in 1975, rises even more in 1983 to 19.5%, and ends up around 11% in 2014. In 1972, the graph starts out around 7% for Hispanics, rises to around 12% in 1975, and ends at 7.4% in 2014. In 1972, the graph starts out around 5% for whites, jumps to nearly 8% in 1975, jumps again to nearly 8.5% in 1982, and ends up at around 5% in 2014.
(a) By gender, 1972–2014. Unemployment rates for men used to be lower than unemployment rates for women, but in recent decades, the two rates have been very close, often with the unemployment rate for men somewhat higher. (b) By age, 1972–2014. Unemployment rates are highest for the very young and become lower with age. (c) By race and ethnicity, 1972–2014. Although unemployment rates for all groups tend to rise and fall together, the unemployment rate for whites has been lower than the unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics in recent decades. (Source: www.bls.gov)

Questions & Answers

opportunity cost means the lose of other alternatives when the alternative is chosen
saad Reply
is the benefits that you loose by not selecting a certain alternative.
EDWINY
individual wants maybe unlimited, but means to satisfy them are limited there one has to forgo some alternative in order to acquire other alternative and it must according priority, that is when scale of preference set in for individuals to make choice
Rhaiymornd
hello everyone
Aliyu
Next best alternative forgiven
Shoaib
demand is the amount of goods and services that consumer is willing and able to purchase at a particular prices over given period of time
Rhaiymornd Reply
yep
Abraham
what's demand?
labi Reply
What customers want the most...
Abraham
not only what customers wants, want is just mere desire but demand is backed by purchasing power, ability and willingness
Rhaiymornd
thanks
Abraham
What's opportunity cost?
Abraham
what are the differences between demand and supply
Zakariyah Reply
who is called lender of the last resort
Divyanshu Reply
Hi
Linda
hlw
Karishma
Central bank
Majeed
hy
Karishma
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Majeed
hy
Karishma
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Majeed
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Linda
fine
Karishma
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Linda
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Chandra
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Majeed
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Karishma
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Chandra
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Karishma
the central bank
Sessay
Has completed already
Majeed
hey
neha
yes
Abigail
Yesss
Majeed
ok
Karishma
hey
Doctor
yh
Abigail
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Sessay
how ar you
Doctor
split the price effect into income effect and substitution effect
Karishma
fine and u
Abigail
Hi
Godwin
hi
Hey, I am new here. Hope, discussion on Economics will clear our concepts more.
yasir
yes
Abigail
do u speak hindi or english
Karishma
how to consumer equlibrium through ic
Karishma
consumer equilibrium demand equals supply
Kenneth
the consumer is in equilibrium when the indifference curve is tangential to the budget line. or when the BL and IC intersect
Sessay
reasons indifference curve slopes downwards?
Kenneth
fine Abby any good,
Doctor
ur lost
Doctor
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EDWINY
which one
Doctor
what do u understand the concept of poverty cycle.
EDWINY
hey
Ebong
I'm New here
Ebong
hi
ian
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nelson
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Ayegba
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Amara
, Dennis Weissman Associates, LLC Laboratory Economics is the monthly business newsletter that gets behind the headlines and press releases.
Ayegba
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Emmanuel
what's the topic
Adamsvictor Reply
economic systems
gracious
hello
Antonio
market
aba
hello where can I find the diagrams
Manu
Hello I am totally out ,I am not understanding why we are here. can someone help me out?
Amara
why Economic is not a pure science can someone help me out
Mohamed
because economics like science put forth a some hypotheses and then do experiments to prove them
Anwesh
but these experiments are not completely controlled
Anwesh
Hello
Comfort
hey
suraj
hi people can you help me out on "demand and supply"
Milton
Am not understanding can someone enlighten me pls
Bertilla
hi people can you help me out on "demand and supply"
Sessay
hello. if Mr.Patrick's income is #900.00 while that of Mr.Shodawe is #1300.00 if Mr.Patrick and Shodowe pay #90.00 and #130.00 as taxes,the tax system is?
Benjamin
I need the answer please
Benjamin
regressive tax system
shaikh
OK thanks
Benjamin
Isn't this called proportional tax rate because the rate stays the same - 10%? Tell me if I'm wrong
Ioan
Supply is perfectly elastic and demand increases.
kishore Reply
whose there
Waseem
show the demand curve
Hameed Reply
it slopes downward from left to right
Ama
how resources are allocated in a free economy
Charlotte Reply
explain how discriminating Monopoly increase profits
Charlotte
factors responsible for the emergence of monopoly situation
adelakun Reply
total output produced by a country over a given period of time .... can someone give me the term plz
TMM Reply
GDP
Anjorin
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TMM
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Anjorin
gross domestic products
janet
GDP
Bertilla
GDP
Prof
GDP
Bertilla
gross domestic product
gross domestic product
GDp
Mohamed
gdp
agboola
what is recession pertaining to GDP
Prince
what is recession pertaining to GDP
Prince
what is recession
Prince
law of demand and supply
Zakariyah
All thing been equal
Temple
no i think recession is pertaining to GNP
owolabi
gross national production
Abraham
what is embago
Peter
all things being equal
Raphael
embargo restriction on trade by government of a country
owolabi
an official ban on trade or other commercial activity with a particular country.
Ayegba
Embargo.....an order by a common carrier or publ regulatory agency prohibiting or restric freight transportation
Ayegba
it's a complete band on important n export
Bertilla
who is Really Good in Mathematics. put me Through. Let Do Group Reading; am Preparing to Write Jamb this Year.
Andrew
Hi. C+I+G+x-m
Shoaib
Gdp aggregate demand are bit same
Shoaib
Dpd = c+i+g+(x-m) is aggregate demand
Shoaib
Gdp=c+i+g+(x-m) is aggregate demand
Shoaib
GDP= c+i+s+g+(x-m)
Saboor
Topic ended waiting for next topic
Shoaib
What is Terms of Trade (TOT)?
DADA
At what point a Terms of Trade can be favorable?
DADA
What is long run supply curve of a industry
Rashika Reply
enlightened
Ernest
all on board am here
Ernest Reply
am late I missed alot
Ernest
A mixed economy is the best type of an economy.Discuss
Tawanda Reply
Agreed Mixed economics is d combination of both capitalist and socialist economy, it give room for both individual and government to make decisions whereby giving room to a rapid development of d economy.
Anjorin
?
Andres
agreed
Ernest
Explain more about the Macroeconomics
Lizzy Reply
what is macroeconomic
Ekye
macro economics has to do with the of study economics at national level i.e the study of national economy as a whole. While micro is concerned with the study at individual, group or company level.
Andres
Andres explain
Ernest
ok
Ernest
what topic is capitalist economy based on
ADIBE
pls am not really understanding
Bertilla
pls can u explain more
Bertilla

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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