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January 21st, 2009

The Economy is Bad, But Not 1982 Bad



By now we have all heard the comparisons of our current economy to either those during the Great Depression, or more recently, the 1982 recession. For those who weren’t alive or remember either or both of those past economic downturns, David Leonhardt of the New York Times recently explained that “The Economy is Bad, but 1982 Was Worse.”

In an attempt to compare the economic environment of 1982 and now, Leonhardt used historical information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) going back to 1970. He compared several types of unemployment data: “Since the job market covers the entire economy and affects families in tangible ways, it seems to be the single best yardstick.”

According to Leonhardt and the BLS data, our current economy “…is not yet as bad as it was in the early 1980s. It’s not even that close to being as bad. The ranks of unemployed and underemployed, controlling for the size of the population, were much larger in 1982 than today.”

Nonetheless the current recession still has some room to grow even uglier. Leonhardt predicts that by this year, one out of six workers may be either unemployed or underemployed, “just as was the case in 1982.”

Our biggest risk, says Leonhardt, “is that these problems will feed on themselves and make the situation even worse than now.”

For those of you who remember, how does the current recession stack up against the downturn of the early 1980’s?

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HSH.com's daily blog focuses on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets. Our mission is to relate how changes in mortgage rates and housing policy, as well as the latest financial news, impacts consumers, homebuyers and industry insiders alike. Our 30-plus years of experience in the mortgage industry gives us an edge as we break down the latest changes in an ever-changing market.

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Tim Manni

Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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