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February 1984, Vol. 107, No. 2
Employment and unemployment
improvements widespread in 1983
The end of 1983 marked a year of recovery from one of the longest and deepest post-World War II recessions. Improvement in the employment situation compared favorably with previous recovery periods. Spurred primarily by a surge in consumer spending, particularly on durable goods such as housing, appliances, and automobiles, real gross national product picked up sharply in the spring and summer months. Overall, real GNP grew by about 6 percent over the year (fourth quarter 1982 to fourth quarter 1983), compared with a decline in the prior year.
Industrial production, which had fallen by just over 12 percent during the 1981-82 recession, increased steadily throughout the year. By yearend, the index had risen by more than 15 percent, with the biggest increases occurring among durable goods manufacturers.
Concomitant with the improvements in production and spending came sharp gains in employment and reductions in unemployment. While comparatively stagnant in the first quarter of 1983, total civilian employment grew rapidly during the remaining quarters and posted an overall increase of 3.9 million between the 1981-82 recession trough of November 1982 and December 1983. Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 2.9 million over the same period.1 While not all industries fared equally well, increases in payroll jobs were widespread. For example, 70 percent of the 186 industries which make up the BLS diffusion index registered gains in the fourth quarter of 1983, compared to just 25 percent a year earlier (3-month spans).2
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 1984 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 This article uses data from two main sources: the Current Employment Statistics program and the Current Population Survey. Statistics on nonagricultural payroll employment and hours from the Current Employment Statistics program are collected by State agencies from payroll records of employers and are tabulated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data on labor force, total employment, and unemployment are derived from the Current Population Survey, a sample survey of households conducted and tabulated by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A description of the two surveys appears in the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics publication, Employment and Earnings.
2 The BLS diffusion index measures the percent of industries which posted increases in employment over a specified time span. The index is calculated from 172 unpublished seasonally adjusted employment series (two-digit nonmanufacturing industries and three-digit manufacturing industries) covering all nonagricultural payroll employment in the private sector.
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