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March 1982, Vol. 105, No. 3
The employment situation in 1981:
new recession takes its toll
Robert W. Bednarzik, Marillyn A. Hewson, and Michael A. Urquhart
The labor market turned sour in mid-1981 as the economy entered its eighth postwar recession following a rather weak and brief recovery. High interest rates continued to plague the housing and automobile industries, which never totally recovered from 1980, and the weakness of these two critical industries had begun to spread to related industries as 1981 unfolded. Product orders were reduced, leading to increased inventories, sharp cutbacks in production, and eventually to increased layoffs and other job losses.
The labor market, which received its second jolt in as many years, was experiencing precipitous declines by the final quarter of 1981. The number of unemployed reached 9.6 million 8.8 percent of the work forceby the end of the year. There were also large increases in the number of persons reporting discouragement over job prospects and the number still employed but reporting reduced workweeks.
Although by the end of 1981 total employment was near its year ago level, the pattern during the year was one of growth through spring, stagnation in the summer, and pronounced cutbacks at the end of the year. The percentage of the population employed was at a 4-year low by December.1
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1 Data on labor force, total employment, and unemployment are derived from the Current Population survey (CPS), a sample survey of households conducted and tabulated by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Statistics on nonagricultural payroll employment and hours from the Current Employment Statistics Program (CES) are collected by State agencies from employer reports of payroll records and are tabulated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A description of the two surveys appears in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly publication, Employment and Earnings.
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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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