A Look at Current Numbers vs 28 Years Ago

United States of America - 1985 vs. 2013There are a fair number of similarities between May of 2013 and June of 1985.

In May of 2013, the unemployment rate in the United States was 7.6%. In June of 1985, the unemployment rate in the United States was 7.4%.

In May of 2013, the United States had a President (Obama) who was just elected to his second term. In June of 1985, the United States had a President (Reagan) who was also just elected to a second term.

Both President Reagan and President Obama were able to win second terms despite the fact they initially took office when the US economy was imploding. President Obama took office in the midst of a financial meltdown, while President Reagan took office when stagflation (a gruesome mix of high inflation and weak economic activity) was wreaking havoc on the nation. As popular as President Reagan ended up becoming, there was a time that he was under fire due to his seeming inability to turn the economy around (that would later change, as the US economy saw its GDP rise by a staggering 7.2% in 1984, which enabled President Reagan to secure an easy re-election victory).

Another similarity between June of 1985 and May of 2013 - worry over the growing debt of the nation. Sure, the current debt load of the nation is MUCH higher than in June of 1985, but people were very worried about the nation's debt even back then. After all, the United States raised the nation's debt limit three times in 1984 and an additional two times in 1985.


I thought that it would be interesting to look at some of the employment and unemployment numbers in June of 1985 and compare them to present day, as there are some similarities (and some very large differences too) between 28 years ago and the present day.

First off, here are the unemployment rates:

June 1985 - 7.4%
May 2013 - 7.6%

Next up, the civilian labor force, which is the total number of non-institutionalized civilians aged 16 and older who are current working or actively looking for work:

June 1985 - 114,965,000
May 2013 - 155,658,000

Nothing really interesting here, as population growth means that more people are working and looking for work.

Next up, the employment population ratio:

June 1985 - 59.8%
May 2013 - 58.6%

Many economists consider the employment population ratio to be THE most important indicator for the labor market, and it's interesting to note that we are currently 1.2% under the rate posted in June of 1985, which is quite a difference.

Next up - the labor force participation rate:

June 1985 - 64.6%
May 2013 - 63.4%

Again, another significant difference.

Next up - the number of people who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks:

June 1985 - 1,281,000
May 2013 - 4,357,000

Even after accounting for the increased population, that is a massive difference.

Now, the unemployment rate for teenagers between the ages of 16-19:

June 1985 - 18.5%
May 2013 - 24.5%

Given the large disparity between the number of long-term unemployed in 1985 and 2013, it would make sense that teenagers in the present day would be having a harder time finding jobs, as older and more experienced workers are filling jobs that were previously taken by teenagers.

Finally, the average (mean) number of weeks unemployed:

June 1985 - 15.5 weeks
May 1983 - 36.9 weeks

Source: BLS.gov

Filed under: General Knowledge

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