Employment decline compared to Depression

March 7, 2009

The March payroll employment data showed that the decline in employment from the peak in December 2007 is now larger in percentage terms than the decline in the worst recession since 1960, in 1981-82. The plot below shows, however, that the decline is small in comparison to the Depression. The government did not collect monthly employment data during the Depression, so we have fitted a smooth curve through the annual data. The peak before the Depression was in August 1929, according to the NBER.