Jobless Claims Would Have to Approach 1m to Reach the 1982 Level, As Percent of Labor Force
I've posted about this before, the fact that the reported weekly jobless claims numbers are not adjusted for the size of the labor force. For the month of February, weekly initial unemployment claims averaged 627,875. As a percent of the civilian labor force, those jobless claims represent 0.4071% of the 154.214 million labor force.
The chart above shows the "initial jobless claims as a percent of the labor force" back to January 1980. To reach the same level as the peak in 1982 of 0.6067%, today's jobless claims would have to be almost 936,000, or almost 50% higher than the current 628,000.
So how about we first get hysterical for awhile about the "worst economy since 1982" before we go totally hyperbolic about the "worst economy since the Great Depression." Once we reach the 936,000 jobless claims it would take to equal the economic conditions of 1982, then let's start talking about Great Depression II, but not before.
Related: I was at the Great Lakes Crossing Mall yesterday in Auburn Hills (suburb of Detroit), and it seemed just like Christmas: the parking lot was full of cars, the stores were full of shoppers, the food court was full, people were lined up to buy movie tickets, etc. And this shopping activity was taking place in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country (11.6%)!
Bottom Line: The long checkout lines at a busy mall in Michigan on a Saturday afternoon during "Great Depression II" are a far cry from the long breadlines of "Great Depression I" in the 1930s.