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Unemployment rate the year you turned 16

  • Wikicommons
    1/ Wikicommons

    Unemployment rate the year you turned 16

    The younger generation always has it easier—at least according to their parents and grandparents. They walked five miles to school, uphill both ways, as the old saying goes. Pretty much everyone has wondered whether things were really as tough as mom and dad claimed, but how can you ever tell for sure?

    There is no single metric by which we can compare the difficulty of our parents’ lives to our own, but we can at least assess the relative difficulty of securing work today versus when they were first entering the job market. Stacker pulled data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compile a list of the U.S. unemployment rates from every year between 1940 and 2017. Between 1940 and 1946, unemployment statistics considered individuals 14 years or older, while the contemporary system, which was instituted in 1947, accounts for people 16 and older. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts an individual as unemployed if they are currently jobless, looking for a job, and available for work. Click through the years to find out how the unemployment rate may have affected your job search—and see if your parents’ generation (or maybe your generation) really did have it worse.

    Click here to find out the state of the U.S. economy the year you were born. 

  • U.S. Department of Defense
    2/ U.S. Department of Defense

    1940

    Annual unemployment rate: 14.1%

  • Wikicommons
    3/ Wikicommons

    1941

    Annual unemployment rate: 10.0%

  • Wikicommons
    4/ Wikicommons

    1942

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.7%

  • GoodFreePhotos
    5/ GoodFreePhotos

    1943

    Annual unemployment rate: 1.9%

  • Wikicommons
    6/ Wikicommons

    1944

    Annual unemployment rate: 1.2%

  • Wikicommons
    7/ Wikicommons

    1945

    Annual unemployment rate: 1.9%

  • The Library of Congress // Flickr
    8/ The Library of Congress // Flickr

    1946

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.0%

  • IISG // Flickr
    9/ IISG // Flickr

    1947

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.9%

  • Wikicommons
    10/ Wikicommons

    1948

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.8%

  • Wikicommons
    11/ Wikicommons

    1949

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.9%

  • Wikicommons
    12/ Wikicommons

    1950

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.3%

  • Wikicommons
    13/ Wikicommons

    1951

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.3%

  • Wikicommons
    14/ Wikicommons

    1952

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.0%

  • Peter K. Levy // Flickr
    15/ Peter K. Levy // Flickr

    1953

    Annual unemployment rate: 2.9%

  • Wikicommons
    16/ Wikicommons

    1954

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

  • Wikicommons
    17/ Wikicommons

    1955

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.4%

  • Herber Behrens // Wikicommons
    18/ Herber Behrens // Wikicommons

    1956

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.1%

  • Wikicommons
    19/ Wikicommons

    1957

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.3%

  • NASA
    20/ NASA

    1958

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.8%

  • Wikicommons
    21/ Wikicommons

    1959

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

  • FDR Presidential Library and Museum // Flickr
    22/ FDR Presidential Library and Museum // Flickr

    1960

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

  • Wikicommons
    23/ Wikicommons

    1961

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.7%

  • Wikicommons
    24/ Wikicommons

    1962

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

  • Wikicommons
    25/ Wikicommons

    1963

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.7%

  • Wikicommons
    26/ Wikicommons

    1964

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.2%

  • Wikicommons
    27/ Wikicommons

    1965

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.5%

  • Wikicommons
    28/ Wikicommons

    1966

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.8%

  • Wikicommons
    29/ Wikicommons

    1967

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.8%

  • Kheel Center // Flickr
    30/ Kheel Center // Flickr

    1968

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.6%

  • NASA
    31/ NASA

    1969

    Annual unemployment rate: 3.5%

  • Central Intelligence Agency // Flickr
    32/ Central Intelligence Agency // Flickr

    1970

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.9%

  • Leena A. Krohn // Wikicommons
    33/ Leena A. Krohn // Wikicommons

    1971

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.9%

  • Wikicommons
    34/ Wikicommons

    1972

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.6%

  • Wikicommons
    35/ Wikicommons

    1973

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.9%

  • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library
    36/ Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

    1974

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.6%

  • Wikicommons
    37/ Wikicommons

    1975

    Annual unemployment rate: 8.5%

  • Wikicommons
    38/ Wikicommons

    1976

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.7%

  • Wikicommons
    39/ Wikicommons

    1977

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.1%

  • Wikicommons
    40/ Wikicommons

    1978

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.1%

  • Wikicommons
    41/ Wikicommons

    1979

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.8%

  • Wikicommons
    42/ Wikicommons

    1980

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.1%

  • Wikicommons
    43/ Wikicommons

    1981

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.6%

  • Wikicommons
    44/ Wikicommons

    1982

    Annual unemployment rate: 9.7%

  • Wikicommons
    45/ Wikicommons

    1983

    Annual unemployment rate: 9.6%

  • Wikicommons
    46/ Wikicommons

    1984

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.5%

  • NASA
    47/ NASA

    1985

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.2%

  • Wikicommons
    48/ Wikicommons

    1986

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.0%

  • kingrahsu // Flickr
    49/ kingrahsu // Flickr

    1987

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.2%

  • City of Boston Archives // Flickr
    50/ City of Boston Archives // Flickr

    1988

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

  • Wikicommons
    51/ Wikicommons

    1989

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.3%

  • NASA
    52/ NASA

    1990

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.6%

  • NOAA
    53/ NOAA

    1991

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.8%

  • Wikicommons
    54/ Wikicommons

    1992

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.5%

  • Wikicommons
    55/ Wikicommons

    1993

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.9%

  • Wikicommons
    56/ Wikicommons

    1994

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.1%

  • Wikicommons
    57/ Wikicommons

    1995

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.6%

  • Wikicommons
    58/ Wikicommons

    1996

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.4%

  • Wikicommons
    59/ Wikicommons

    1997

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.9%

  • Wikicommons
    60/ Wikicommons

    1998

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.5%

  • Tonde2010 // Wikicommons
    61/ Tonde2010 // Wikicommons

    1999

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.2%

  • Ian // Flickr
    62/ Ian // Flickr

    2000

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.0%

  • George W. Bush White House
    63/ George W. Bush White House

    2001

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.7%

  • Wikicommons
    64/ Wikicommons

    2002

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.8%

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration // Wikicommons
    65/ National Aeronautics and Space Administration // Wikicommons

    2003

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.0%

  • Wikicommons
    66/ Wikicommons

    2004

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

  • Wikicommons
    67/ Wikicommons

    2005

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.1%

  • Wikicommons
    68/ Wikicommons

    2006

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.6%

  • William Beutler // Flickr
    69/ William Beutler // Flickr

    2007

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.6%

  • Wikicommons
    70/ Wikicommons

    2008

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.8%

  • George W. Bush White House
    71/ George W. Bush White House

    2009

    Annual unemployment rate: 9.3%

  • NOAA_response_restoration // Flickr
    72/ NOAA_response_restoration // Flickr

    2010

    Annual unemployment rate: 9.6%

  • Michael Fleshman // Flickr
    73/ Michael Fleshman // Flickr

    2011

    Annual unemployment rate: 8.9%

  • Gage Skidmore // Wikicommons
    74/ Gage Skidmore // Wikicommons

    2012

    Annual unemployment rate: 8.1%

  • Obama White House
    75/ Obama White House

    2013

    Annual unemployment rate: 7.4%

  • Wikicommons
    76/ Wikicommons

    2014

    Annual unemployment rate: 6.2%

  • Michael Vadon // Flickr
    77/ Michael Vadon // Flickr

    2015

    Annual unemployment rate: 5.3%

  • Wikicommons
    78/ Wikicommons

    2016

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.9%

  • Wikicommons
    79/ Wikicommons

    2017

    Annual unemployment rate: 4.4%

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