Department of Numbers


It occurred to me reading this morning’s new unemployment figures that we have to be getting within range of the raw number of unemployed we had during the Great Depression. Comparing the rate of unemployment to historical norms is fine, but in terms of sheer suffering, the actual number is still useful.

Now there are all kinds of obstacles to comparing unemployment numbers from 1933, which was the high water mark for depression-era unemployment, to those today. The methodologies are very different. Even the rise of two-income families changes the calculus a bit.

What I really want is a graph that reconciles and correlates those differences to give an apples to apples comparison of the latest numbers to those from the 1930s. In looking around, I see some of the work on this has been done, though not with the latest numbers. But I want a graph, so I can see it. If you find one that meets these criteria, please send it my way.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.