• Why we’re screwed, unemployment edition

    I know this is outside of my usual wheelhouse, but I’ve been playing with the FRED Plug-In for Excel (h/t Jared Bernstein). It has tons of up-to-date data, and allows for easy graphing.

    So I made this nice chart showing how the unemployment rate has varied with how long people are unemployed over time. FRED let me easily import monthly data since 1948. I’ve coded all the recessions in that time period, including the most recent “Great Recession”, and the time since that ended. Please, someone, tell me how we’re not screwed.

    I’m old enough to remember the recession of 1981-1982. Unemployment peaked at 10.8%, higher than at any time in the recent badness. But even at its worst, the average time an American was unemployed was barely over 21 weeks. And that was the worst recession before this one. In the midst of this recession, the average time an American was unemployed was about 20 weeks. When the recession “ended”, it was 25 weeks. And in the “good” times since the recession has been over, the average time an American was unemployed has only gone up, to a peak of 40.9 weeks, and settling at 39.7 weeks last month.

    The amount of time an American is unemployed recently is unprecedented since 1948. It just looks so bad. Someone make me feel better.


    • No, we are screwed and this long term unemployment spreads into an ethical challenge for those of use in private practice: since we are bound by our own ethics we need to live up to serving our existing patients regardless of ability to pay. At least that is how I treat my patients–usually charging them their previous co-pay.
      But we were screwed back in the 80’s (my first memories of really hating Reagan) when he locked out the air traffic controllers, when banking deregulation started, and when income earned overseas was taxed at lower rates for corporations than income earned in the US. These numbers of long duration have been a long time coming.

    • Maybe this will make you feel better (at least it does me):

      Obama is going to lose in November.

      • Please explain how that is supposed to help

        • If it’s not obvious to you, I doubt there’s anything I can say to convince you.

          • If Obama loses that will probably mean the GOP controls both Houses of Congress and the White House. Judging from what happened last time that occurred, and what Romney is promising now, that will mean a huge increase in the deficit, incompetent governance, a war with Iran and god knows what else.

            Lots to look forward to!

          • Ron

            It is not obvious to me and your lack of an explanation tells me all I need to know about you. Have a good day sir. With Obama leading in all the polls even before the Todd Akin scandal, expect the margin to widen, especially with women voters.

    • Well, if you want to be cheered up – I suppose the technology we have to make graphs of our unemployment is a lot nicer than it was in 1980.

      Also, nicer food.

    • The fed messed up very badly this time.

    • Obama didn’t cause this mess, he inherited it from W Bush. If you want the country to go under, elect Romney who is so out of touch with real working people its not even funny anymore – it’s down right scary.

      Obama’s has had to try to work with a congress that can’t even work with itself and who block his every move; mostly so he won’t get reelected. The best way here is for the American voter to thoroughly educate themselves about the issues and then get out an vote.

      • Vicki F,

        What did he inherit from Bush? The last two years of Bush had a Democrat house and senate, the later Obama was a member of. The way our country works Bush didn’t do anything that wasn’t proposed, voted on, and passed by the Democrats in the house and senate first.

        Can you name even one thing Bush did to create this mess that didn’t follow that path?

        Next please name anything Obama has had blocked. Again they control the Senate so it should be very easy for them to get anything through the Senate and put the pressure on the house to pass it. I haven’t seen the Senate do anything in over two years.

        How is Bush responsible for all the money Obama gave to his suppporters under the green giveaways?

        How did Bush stop the pipeline?

        Energy Prices in the Midwest/Great Lakes are exploding, how is that Bush’s fault?

        Closing Gitmo, how did Bush stop that?

        All the debt? Bush didn’t propose or spend that.

        Yes voters do need to eduate themselves, I have a feeling you aren’t going to like the results though.

        • Nate, in the Senate the Filibuster has been used relentlessly to weaken the ability of the Senate to get things done far out of proportion to the past. This is an explicit strategy, and the numbers back it up: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture_motions/clotureCounts.htm

          So don’t blame the Democrats in the Senate for not passing more bills.

          As for the point about Congress in the Bush years, the Right-leaning and/Bush-backed bills that passed had primarily Republicans voting for them in most cases, with just enough Democrats to get over 50%. The 2001 Bush tax cuts and the MMA (that created Part D) were the largest deficit expanders in the Bush years, and they followed exactly this pattern. It might be instructive to read this to remember that Democrats were not in charge of both chambers of congress for most of the Bush years: http://wa4thcddems.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/my-congressman-and-the-saturday-morning-massacre/

          • So there is no specific bill they blocked? Your talking matters of spending which can be passed with a simple majority.


            “Yet most issues in the Senate are decided by a simple majority vote: one-half-plus-one of the Members voting, assuming the presence of a quorum.”

            While it makes a simple argument for commercials and the talking heads if you sit down and exam actual laws that were blocked that would have fixed spending and jobs they don’t exist. That is why when I ask people to name one, I instead get back the generic answer about the sheer volume of cloture votes.

            Ironically you prove my point in your next paragraph.

            “had primarily Republicans voting for them in most cases, with just enough Democrats to get over 50%.”

            Yet when Democrats had 50%+ they were blocked from doing anything? You also seen to ignore the number of motions filed….were these motions maybe more political gamemenship ment to “get people on record” then serious bills? So you bring up bogis bills with no intent of them passing to get the opposing party on record then use the fact they voted against it as well?

    • I too wish for a way to feel better, unfortunately:

      – The Euro is marching inexorably towards breakup.
      – The only way the next debt ceiling hit doesn’t result in a default (and the attendant economic chaos) is if it holds off till after inauguration, and Romney manages to win.

      You’re welcome.

    • “All drug users deserve access to evidence-based interventions to address their substance use and to meet their basic needs.”

      Housing and food obviously. Do we include cell phone, basic cable, and trnasportation? Spending money, we can’t expect them to be shut ins.

      So why not do drugs and let the tax payors support you? You have the receipt for every spoiled child ever born. We already tried this with public housing and welfare. Show someone how to live for free at someone else’s expense and millions will take you up on it. The math doesn’t work, never has and never will.

      • I agree 100%.

        The ads are out there: “This is your brain on drugs.”

        So, there’s no excuse.

        • I think the spoiled children we are currently subsidizing and are about to be, as health care providers, asked to subsidize are the Baby Boomers. Twenty years ago they health economists encouraged doubling the Medicare withholding from paychecks and we would not be in the current crisis we face. But no…. Social security will not support them, but pushing the age back to receive it with any speed that would help is being pushed far into the future so as not to discomfit the Boomers. Means testing for Social Security? No one will even discuss this solution whereby we could save that system at least for those who aren’t filthy rich. Let’s at least point to the biggest pack of spoiled brats in the room if the conversations come down to that level.