Comparing the Great Depression era to today, I don't have the statistics in front of me but it seems like peak unemployment was 25% in 1933 and rapidly fell from there. It may have been 17% in 1936 (edit). Just rough numbers to set the tone. Today we have unemployment of 8% officially and using the same measurement methods as in the 1930s it may be 12%.
Now let's move on to another concept - what relative percentages of the population were actually doing something productive then versus now. If a man was repairing appliances for a buck or two during the Great Depression, he may have been officially on the unemployment rolls but he was doing something worthwhile. He may have worked for a bank and lost his job when the bank went under, whereas today a bank facing the same insolvency situation may still be open and the employee may still be paid with printed bailout money and is officially on the employment rolls.
Which man is more productive - the man of the Great Depression who is unemployed and repairing appliances or the man of today who is employed in an insolvent bank and being paid with printed bailout money?
Just off the top of my head, I would guess that 90% of the labor force in the 1930s was doing something at least vaguely productive whereas that number might be about 75% today - in other words, a reversal of the official statistics. If you're unemployed and tending a garden and fixing holes in clothing and eating out of a soup kitchen that's more productive than sitting on your ass collecting a government issued check and using food stamps. Certainly 10,000 lobbyists descended upon Washington to collect more money to keep failed corporate bureaucracies afloat can't be considered real employment either.
Last edited by Higgenbotham
on Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.