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The unemployment rate the year you turned 16

  • 1969

    - Annual unemployment rate: 3.5%

    Dropping another 0.1%, the U.S. unemployment rate in 1969 reflected the fruits of the country's economy, but that would soon change due to the Vietnam War deficit incurred over almost a decade of overseas battle. When President Richard Nixon took office this year, the U.S. would begin to enter the 1969–70 recession, with unemployment rising quickly after.

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  • 1970

    - Annual unemployment rate: 4.9%

    The U.S. recession in 1970 bumped joblessness up 1.4% in one year. Business Insider likened the state of the economy in 1970 to that of 2018, suggesting America would see the same loss of employment and recession again. While millions of jobs would cease in 1970, it would get even worse a year later.

  • 1971

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.9%

    President Nixon signed the Emergency Employment Act in 1971, which added 150,000 new jobs to the American workforce. His efforts, along with wage and price control, would immediately begin to lower the 5.9% rate down a few notches, giving America a hopeful reprieve in terms of unemployment.


  • 1972

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.6%

    Dropping another 0.3% by 1972, U.S. unemployment under Nixon continued to decline. However, stagflation—a combination of high joblessness and inflation tied with idle economic growth—would begin during the Watergate scandal that began this year.

  • 1973

    - Annual unemployment rate: 4.9%

    By 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) of 1973, a new federal law that mandated citizens receive schooling for public service jobs. Also, both the U.S. gold standard and the Vietnam War ended, which would greatly affect joblessness in the next two years.

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  • 1974

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.6%

    Stagflation and the end of the gold standard immediately rose unemployment by 1974, when Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Nixon’s prior economic policies became questionable, as the joblessness rate spiked significantly by nearly 3% a year later.

    [Pictured: President Gerald Ford, who took over when Nixon resigned.]

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  • 1975

    - Annual unemployment rate: 8.5%

    Unemployment grew to its highest level since 1941, although the recession that began with an oil embargo in 1973 was showing signs of ending. The embargo caused the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression and lasted nearly two years. To help stem inflation and spur the economy, Congress instituted a tax cut in April 1975, and while unemployment peaked at 9% a month later, it began to fall for the remainder of the year.

  • 1976

    - Annual unemployment rate: 7.7%

    Unemployment remained high in 1976, even as the country pulled out of the recession that began in 1973. The labor force was growing, with more women and teens seeking work, and increased unemployment benefits established during the recession allowed workers to hold out for a better job. Worker registration requirements, a condition of welfare established in the early 1970s, increased the total number of unemployed.

    [Pictured: American labor activist and cofounder of the United Farm Workers of America Dolores Huerta speaks at a UFW rally, California, 1975.]

  • 1977

    - Annual unemployment rate: 7.1%

    Jimmy Carter took office in January 1977, when the unemployment rate fell as the economy left the recession behind. Rapid growth in the gross national product helped roughly 7.7 million workers find new jobs by the end of the year. Inflation remained high through 1977 however, increasing from 4.9 to 6.7%.

  • 1978

    - Annual unemployment rate: 6.1%

    The unemployment rate dropped a full percentage point in 1978, but the workforce participation rate dropped to a low point that wouldn’t be reached again until 2013. Teen unemployment rose to 17.4% however, with a 15% increase in the minimum wage the previous year being one of the main factors. In October, the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978 established new goals for the Fed, including reining in inflation and reducing unemployment.

    [Pictured: Boston Deputy Mayor Clarence Jones speaks to kids marching for jobs at the steps of city hall in Boston, 1978.]

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