I just found this graph. The red line is the employment-to-population ratio of the USA. I've added some numbers - green for upwards trends, red for downwards trends:

enter image description here

One thing I'm very confused about is the scale. But what I'm interested in is what happened there (a can't read the numbers exactly, this is a best guess):

 1. 1949-06 to 1953-06
11. 1953-06 to 1954
 2. 1954    to 1957
12. 1957 to 1958
 3. 1958 to 1960
13. 1960 to 1961
 4. 1961 to 1969-04
14. 1969-04 to 1971
 5. 1971    to 1973-09
15. 1973-09 to 1974-12
 6. 1974-12 to 1979-03
16. 1979-03 to 1983
 7. 1983    to 1990
17. 1990    to 1992
 8. 1992    to 2000-06
18. 2000-06 to 2003-04
 9. 2003-04 to 2007
19. 2007    to 2009: Financial crisis of 2007–2008
10. 2010    to 2014

I found a couple of things that might fit:

  • 1961–63: Vietnam war?
  • 1990 / 1991: End of the cold war?
  • 2000-03: Burst of the dotcom bubble

Only for 19 I know that this was the Financial crisis of 2007–2008, but I don't know what changed that again in an upwards trend.

So my question here is: What actions / events had a major effect on the US unemployment rate from 1949 to 2014 as shown in this graph?

  • I cant speak for all years, but 90/92 was probably caused by black friday, oct 89. 83-90 was the recovery started with Reagan, mainly due to loose economic policies. as for what was going on the 70s i would google the term stagflation, there are tons of theories as to what caused that.
    – ed.hank
    Jul 26, 2019 at 23:23
  • The red line is the unemployment rate plotted upside down using the left scale. See fred.stlouisfed.org/series/UNRATE It is not an employment to population ratio. Wikipedia has a list of US recessions at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_United_States
    – Henry
    Jul 27, 2019 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


I'm going to preface this by saying that I don't know German, so I can't go double-check exactly what those terms mean to verify that its being portrayed right (both by you and the authors), as I would normally like to do before answering something like this.

61-63 was not during the Vietnam war. At least not the US's involvement in it. That didn't really get going in a demographically visible way until the late 1960's and early 1970's.

However, 1962 is significant as the year the Baby Boomers started entering the workforce. In theory, this would create a sudden shock to the labor market, as there'd suddenly be a far larger supply of labor than there was in previous years, fighting for presumably roughly the same number of jobs. One would expect an "unemployment to population ratio" to show that.

1990 is a pretty close date to the end of the Cold War. This coincided with a scale-down of military spending in the US, but its possible the rest of the economy absorbed that. It was also (since I'm being generational) the year Generation X (the post-population boom generation) started entering the workforce. Which might have produced the opposite effect that you saw in 1962.

Here's a graph of the US fertility rate. Rotate that forward about 15ish years to when those babies start to enter the labor market, and you can see where that huge pulse of people might have affected the labor market coming and going.*

enter image description here

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System.

1990 was also the serious beginning of the computerization of the American office. During this period US productivity growth was running quite high, which effectively allowed companies to grow more without having to actually add jobs. This era ended around 2007, its often theorized because that's when US companies became pretty much fully computerized. Productivity growth since then has sunk back to the pre-1990 growth.

enter image description here

* - The Boomers are now starting to retire from the workforce, which is also likely to have some kind of labor market affect.


All of those correspond to oil production peaks or problems in various oil producers.

In the 50s there was the ramp up and ramp down from Korea, and Suez crisis. Then Iraq problems in 1959. These all correspond to oil supply problems.

70s had various oil problems.

90s was Soviet collapse.

2000s was Saudi peak. And so on

Physics explains everything, other explanations are made up.

  • "Physics explains everything, other explanations are made up." - what do you mean by that? Jul 27, 2019 at 6:13
  • Like, paperwork reasons are bad
    – user38653
    Jul 27, 2019 at 6:17

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