US Economy Isn't as Bad as 1982 ... Just Yet

But downturn will definitely get worse, and only big stimulus will limit its depth
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2009 10:29 AM CST
In this July 9, 2008 file photo, a pedestrian passes by a Sharper Image store in downtown Seattle.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – We’ve heard a lot lately about how this recession is the worst since the 1980s, or even since the Great Depression, so David Leonhardt, in the New York Times, tries to get some perspective. Using jobs data as his main metric, Leonhardt finds things aren’t nearly as bad as they were in 1982—but they could get there in a hurry.

For those who can’t remember the ‘80s recession, “it was terrible—qualitatively different from the mild recessions of 1990-'91 and 2001.” Right now we have 12.8%-13% underemployment, but that can’t touch 1982’s figure, which Leonhardt estimates was 16.32%. “But economies are a little like battleships. They turn slowly, and you can often tell where they’re going.” By the end of 2009, we’re on course to look a lot like 1982.