Occupy Wall Street, a Historical Look at U.S. Economy & Unemployment Rates

It was only two days ago when my mother asked me what I thought of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Honestly, I didn’t know a thing about them since I’d made a conscious decision to avoid news and controversial television while working on some personal projects.

This morning I saw an image on a friends Facebook that I “Liked” and following the breadcrumbs just like Zuckerberg planned when he designed Facebook, I found more signs, more commentary, more detail on what is Occupy Wall Street.

As I piece together my own thoughts surrounding these demonstrations and the messages behind them, I am finding a few stand out facts that make me think this may be something I want to look into more. Keep in mind I’m a simple person – not one of strong political background and understanding, but one who simply gathers evidence and forms an opinion of my own based on my own needs as it pertains to various issues.

I’ve always been sort of a square peg trying to live in a round world.

According to Wikipedia Rush Limbaugh told his listening audience on his October 5th show that: “When I was 10 years old I was more self-sufficient than this parade of human debris calling itself Occupy Wall Street.”

Rush Limbaugh was born in 1951 so he’s claiming to have been ‘self-sufficient’ in 1961.

Based on that information Rush Limbaugh was ‘self-sufficient’ somewhere around the time marked by the red arrow shown here:


Image via Wikipedia btw

Okay, so I’m poking a bit of fun. I realize the limits of independence Rush in 1961 was likely being able to put on his own Lone Ranger undies, pouring his own bowl of Corn Flakes and riding his bike around the block without supervision.

In all seriousness, take a look at the chart and think back to a time when you saw our economy thriving, when you felt most secure, when the job market was good and tell me, where would you place that big red arrow?

Interesting Economy Facts to Chew On:

In February 2000, the United States entered the 107th consecutive month (and the longest stretch in history) of economic expansion. [National Bureau of Economic Research and Council of Economic Advisors]

In 1992, the deficit was $290 billion, the largest in history.

In January 1993, it was projected the deficit would grow to $455 billion by 2000. To the contrary, in 2000, the Treasury Department paid off $221 billion in debtthe largest one-year debt paydown in American history. That concluded three consecutive years of debt reduction and lead to:

  • a surplus of $69 billion in 1998
  • a surplus of $126 billion in 1999
  • a surplus of $236 billion in 2000

The first surplus our country had seen since the late 60′s.

More than 22 million new jobs were created between 1993 and 2000.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that was the most jobs ever created under a single Administration. There were more jobs created under the Clinton Administration than those created under Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. combined.

In June 2000, the National Economic Council reported the fastest and longest real wage growth in over three decades.

The United States saw five consecutive years of wage growth – the longest since the 1960′s.

From 1993 to 2000, real wages were up 6.5 percent after they had fallen 4.3 percent during Reagan and Bush years.

In 1999 household income levels broke $40,000 for the first time in history.

Income for median households rose 2.7 percent in 1998 and marked the fifth year of significant growth in income ever recorded. [Census Bureau]

By the time we enter into our 40’s, we learn there’s much to be said about the old saying “history repeats itself” – it’s actually quite true. With that in mind, I wanted to conduct my own research looking back at the economy and higher unemployment rates as they pertained to seated Presidents, when they took office (i.e. how responsible they really were for the numbers) and their political party affiliation.

Unemployment percentages (6+ percent) [U.S. Census] and seated President/Party [Wikipedia] at that time:

* Note – Federal Fiscal Year begins in October


Franklin D. Roosevelt 3/1933 – 4/1945 (D)

1940 (14.6%)
1941 (9.9%)

– I consider these high rates to be all that of FDR since they appear well within his term

Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1/1953 – 1/1961 (R)

1958 (6.8%)

– I consider these high rates to be all that of Eisenhower since they appear well within his term

John F. Kennedy – 1/1961 – 11/1963 (D)

1961 (6.7%)

– Inherited since they appear early in his term

Gerald Ford – 8/1974 – 1/1977 (R)

1975 (8.5%)
1976 (7.7%)

– I consider these high rates to be all that of Ford since they appear well within his term

Jimmy Carter – 1/1977 – 1/1981 (D)

1977 (7.1%)
1978 (6.1%)
1980 (7.1%)

– I consider one year to be inherited while noting an inability to recover, Carter owns the rates of 1978 and 1980.

Ronald Reagan – 1/1981 – 1/1989 (R)

1981 (7.6%)
1982 (9.7%)
1983 (9.6%)
1984 (7.5%)
1985 (7.2%)
1986 (7.0%)
1987 (6.2%)

– I consider these high rates to be somewhat inherited while noting an inability to recover even slightly for over 7 years, Reagan owns the high rates from 1982 through 1987

George H. W. Bush – 1/1989 – 1/1993 (R)

1991 (6.8%)
1992 (7.5%)
1993 (6.9%)

– I consider these high rates to be all that of Bush since they appear well within his term

Bill Clinton – 1/1993 – 1/2001 (D)

1994 (6.1%)

– Coming off nearly 12 years of high unemployment rates, and considering the economical boost that occurred during the Clinton years, I consider these rates to be entirely inherited

George W. Bush – 1/2001 – 1/2009 (R)

2003 (6.0%)

– I consider these high rates to be that of Bush since they appear well within his term

Barack Obama – 1/2009 – Incumbent (D)

2009 (9.3%)
2010 (9.6%)

– I consider one year to be inherited while noting an inability to recover thus far. Obama owns the rates of 2010.

Highest Unemployment Rates:

Highest rate for a single month – November & December 1982 with rate of 10.8%

Highest rate in a year – In 1982 the average unemployment rate was 9.71%

Lowest Unemployment Rates:

Lowest rate for a single month – May & June 1953 with a rate of 2.5%

Lowest rate in a year – In 1953 the average unemployment rate was 2.93%

Eisenhower was President in 1953, however, when I look at the economy of a year, I always consider who held that office the preceding year since realistically the term begins in October.

Look at how unemployment shifts so drastically with the change of Presidents.

Historical unemployment rates in the U.S.

Sharpest Trends:

Unemployment rates down with Truman – Eisenhower takes office and they escalate sharply

The same occurs with Johnson to Nixon

Rates were already up with Carter, but saw a huge increase under Reagan

Then again, rates down with Clinton and increased under Bush

The same pattern that emerged with Carter to Reagan is seen in the Bush to Obama transition

Could this be history repeating itself?

Other Interesting Economical Facts:

Highest homeownership rates:

Second Quarter 2000 – 67.2% (highest ever recorded)

Homeownership rates fell from 65.6 percent Q1 1981 to 63.7 percent in Q1 1993

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