WASHINGTON — The last time unemployment climbed past 10 percent, "The A-Team" was one of the top 10 TV shows and Michael Jackson was about to release "Thriller."
Much has changed since the jobless rate hit 10.1 percent in September 1982, including the composition of the nation's labor force. American workers are now older, more educated and more Latino. The elderly are more likely to be working. Fewer teenagers are in the work force.
After the last time the unemployment rate entered double digits, it stayed there for several months, through June 1983. By the time the rate got above the 10 percent mark again — hitting 10.2 percent last month — the proportion of workers employed in health care and education had nearly doubled since 1982, and manufacturing employment had shrunk by more than half.
Lawyers make up a bigger slice of the work force now. So do people who work in restaurants, hotels and other parts of the leisure and hospitality industry.
Here, by the numbers, are some other ways the work force has changed since September 1982.
More people, fewer workers
- 110.7 million: Size of the work force in September 1982
- 154 million: Size of the work force in October 2009
- 10.7 percent: Adult male unemployment rate in October 2009
- 8.1 percent: Adult female unemployment rate in October 2009
- 9.5 percent: Adult male unemployment rate in September 1982
- 8.4 percent: Female unemployment rate in September 1982
Analysis: The greater disparity between men and women in this recession reflects the heavy impact of layoffs in male-dominated fields, such as construction and manufacturing. Industries with higher female employment, namely education and health care, have actually added jobs during the recession.
Education matters ...
- 15.5 percent: Unemployment rate in October 2009 for those without a high school diploma
- 11.2 percent: Rate for high school graduates
- 4.7 percent: Rate for college graduates
- 3 percent: Unemployment rate in March 1982 for college graduates (at the time, figure was reported once a year)
... But is no guarantee
- 6.8 percent: Proportion of unemployed with college degree in September 1982
- 14.7 percent: Proportion in October 2009
Analysis: College graduates still have much lower jobless rates than those with less education, but they are more likely to be unemployed than in 1982. Job cuts in the financial industry and in high-skilled manufacturing, such as the aerospace industry, have caught up with them, according to Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution. And companies in all sectors are more willing to cut middle managers than in previous recessions, he added, which also affects college graduates.
- 16.6 weeks: Average length of unemployment in September 1982
- 26.9 weeks: Average length in October 2009, a record
Analysis: More than a third of the jobless in October were unemployed for 6 months or more, compared with less than 18 percent in September 1982. One reason is that layoffs were more likely to be temporary back then, as manufacturers furloughed workers until demand returned. But last month only 10.9 percent of the unemployed were on temporary layoff, compared with 22.2 percent in 1982.
African-American unemployment down
- 15.7 percent: Black unemployment in October 2009
- 19.7 percent: The rate in September 1982
Analysis: While unemployment among African-Americans is higher than the nationwide rate, it is much lower than in 1982. That reflects both good and bad trends, according to Roderick Harrison, a senior research scientist at Howard University. On the positive side, there is a much larger black professional middle class that is less subject to layoffs than was the case 26 years ago, he said. But on the negative side, more African-American men have dropped out of the labor force after giving up looking for work, Harrison said — that means they aren't reflected in the unemployment statistics.
More Latinos in the work force
- 22.5 million: Number of Hispanics in work force in October 2009
- 6.7 million: Number in work force in September 1982
- 13.1 percent: Hispanic unemployment rate in October 2009
- 14.4 percent: Hispanic jobless rate in September 1982
Highest unemployment states, September 1982
- Michigan: 15.8 percent
- West Virginia: 15.6 percent
- Alabama: 13.8 percent
- Ohio: 13.1 percent
- Illinois: 12.2 percent
Highest unemployment states, September 2009
- Michigan: 15.3 percent
- Nevada: 13.3 percent
- Rhode Island: 13 percent
- California: 12.2 percent
- South Carolina: 11.6 percent
Analysis: Manufacturers in the rust belt were hit particularly hard in the early 1980s, putting Midwestern states such as Michigan, Ohio and Illinois in the top 5. While Michigan again has the nation's highest unemployment today, states like Nevada and California are suffering from the housing bubble.
- 4 percent: Teenagers' proportion of the labor force in October 2009
- 7.7 percent: Proportion in September 1982
More health and education workers ...
- 14.8 percent: Proportion of workers employed in health care and education in October 2009
- 8.4 percent: Proportion in September 1982
... And fewer manufacturing workers
- 8.9 percent: Proportion of workers employed in manufacturing in October 2009
- 19.2 percent: Proportion in September 1982
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