The excellent, hard-working, and intelligent David Leonhardt writes:
or Those With Jobs, a Recession With Some Benefits - NYTimes.com: One of the distinctive features of the Great Recession has been the enormous number of people who have been out of work for months on end. Almost 45 percent of today’s unemployed workers have been without a job for at least 27 weeks. In no other downturn since World War II did the share exceed 26 percent. For many of these long-term unemployed, the financial and psychological damage will last for years. For most other workers, however, the situation has had a perverse, and mostly overlooked, silver lining. Unemployment has been concentrated among a surprisingly small number of people, given how deep the recession has been. The nation’s pool of jobless workers has not been constantly changing. Instead, it’s been relatively stable — mostly because the hiring rate of new workers plunged in 2008 and still has not recovered. The drop in hiring has actually been steeper than the rise in layoffs.
Compare the current slump with that of the early 1980s, which was similar in severity. Over the course of 1980, 18.1 percent of the labor force was unemployed at some point. In 2008, the first year of this slump, only 13.2 percent was, according to the Labor Department’s most up-to-date data. That number surely rose in 2009, but it is unlikely to have come close to the 1982 peak of 22 percent...
Wait a minute.
Unemployment in 1980 averaged 7.2%--and affected 18.1% of the labor force. Unemployment in 1982 averaged 9.7%--and affected 22% of the labor force Unemployment in 2008 averaged 5.8%--and affected 13.2% of the labor force. In those three cases the total number of those affected by unemployment at some time during the year was 2.3, 2.5, and 2.3 times the average unemployment rate.
In 2010 the unemployment rate will average 9.5% of the labor force, and 2.3 times that will be... 22% of the labor force.
And, as Bob Reich pointed out at coffee at Brewed Awakening yesterday afternoon, there are many more two-earner households than there were in 1982: the share of households affected by an unemployment spell is thus likely to be significantly higher than it was back in 1982.