The Great Depression’s highest unemployment came in 1933 at 24.75% (or 25% if you round up).
The 1933 U.S. population was 125,579,000; the Labor Force was 51,840,000; the number of unemployed was 12,830,000. As a percent of the Labor Force, 24.75% were unemployed; as a percent of the entire population, 10.2% were out of work.
This is what is remembered most about The Great Depression: massive unemployment at 25% and long lines to the soup kitchens.
They calculated unemployment simply back then:
Unemployed / Labor Force = Unemployment Rate (12,830,000 / 51,840,000 = 24.75%)
|1932||1933||Jan 1997||Jan 2009||Dec 2012||Jul 2016|
|1. Population (U.S.Census Bureau)||124,840,000||125,579,000||272,650,000||307,000,000||313,914,000||322,762,018|
|2. Labor Force (DLT not for 1932 & 1933)||51,250,000||51,840,000||135,456,000||154,210,000||155,597,000||159,287,000|
|3. Percent of population working (labor force / population)||41.1%||41.3%||49.7%||50.2%||49.6%||49.4%|
|4. Unemployed (BLS)||7,158,000||12,058,000||12,299,000||7,700,000|
|5. + Not in Labor Force (BLS)||66,829,000||80,529,000||87,918,000||94,333,000|
|6. + Discouraged Workers (BLS)||397,000||734,000||1,068,000||591,000|
|7. = All Unemployed ||12,060,000||12,830,000||74,384,000||93,321,000||101,285,000||102,624,000|
|8. Labor Force Unemployment Rate (unemployed / labor force)||23.5%||24.7%||54.9%||60.5%||65.1%||64.4%|
|9. Population Unemployment Rate (unemployed / population)||9.7%||10.2%||27.3%||30.4%||32.3%||31.8%|
|10. Actual number of people working (labor force – unemployed)||39,190,000||39,010,000||61,072,000||60,889,000||54,312,000||56,663,000|
|11. Employment Rate (Actual Number of People Working / Labor Force)||76.5%||75.3%||45.1%||39.5%||34.9%||35.6%|
|Modern U-3 unemployment rate (BLS)||1.6% (7% of 23.5%)||1.7% (7% of 24.7%)||4.9% (7% of 64.4%)|
|Change in population from 1932 (people added since 1932)||739,000||147,810,000||182,160,000||189,074,000||197,922,018|
|Population growth (number of times the population has doubled)||2.5||2.5||2.6|
Since The Great Depression, the following categories (definitions included) have been added (the common thread in all these categories is that people are all without jobs):
- 1948 – Unemployed persons (Current Population Survey) (from the BLS Glossary):
Persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.
- 1975 – Not in the labor force (Current Population Survey) (from the BLS Glossary):
Includes persons aged 16 years and older in the civilian noninstitutional population who are neither employed nor unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching.
- 1994 – Discouraged workers (Current Population Survey) (from the BLS Glossary):
Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but who are not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.
In addition, in 1994, Marginally attached workers (Current Population Survey) (from the BLS Glossary) was added, they are identified as a percent:
Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.