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The unemployment rate the year you turned 16

  • 1959

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

    After the two-year recession, economic expansion ignited, creating jobs and causing the unemployment rate to drop 1.3% in one year. Global growth and increased wages helped spur the economy, providing more jobs in the U.S. that year.

    [Pictured: Idle machines at the Fairchild Aviation engine division plant in Deer Park, New York, after 2,000 workers were laid off, 1959.]

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  • 1960

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

    The jobless rate remained at 5.5% for a second year in 1960, when the economy slowly started to decline due to stricter monetary policies implemented in order to control inflation. 1960’s recession lasted for 10 months until February 1961.

  • 1961

    - Annual unemployment rate: 6.7%

    While the 1960–61 recession ended in February 1961, the unemployment rate didn’t follow suit right away, peaking in May 1961 before declining to 6% by December 1961. This year, President John F. Kennedy raised the minimum wage to $1.15 hourly, up 15 cents, as well as adding additional unemployment and social security benefits for working Americans.

  • 1962

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.5%

    The Cuban Missile Crisis spurred wartime production, dropping the unemployment rate 1.2% in 1962, when the U.S. prepared for nuclear war with the Soviet Union before President Kennedy negotiated peace. While 5.5% of Americans were out of work this year, those employed full-time were averaging $5,556 a year.

  • 1963

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.7%

    After taking office, President Lyndon B. Johnson set forth monumental economic policies, which would slowly bring the unemployment rate down each year he served. Along with a rise in the GDP, an increase in the minimum wage to $1.25 hourly, and no recession, the existing labor force was strong, with some of the most popular jobs being factory work, nursing, and teaching.

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  • 1964

    - Annual unemployment rate: 5.2%

    The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 proposed to end the War on Poverty declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program would fund vocational programs and extend loans to farmers and small businesses in an effort to grow the economy fairly throughout the U.S. The unemployment rate, down 0.5% from the previous year, would slowly continue to decline under Johnson’s administration.

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  • 1965

    - Annual unemployment rate: 4.5%

    As the U.S. entered the Vietnam War, wartime production would drop the unemployment rate by 0.7% in a year, with more jobs available due to servicemen deploying overseas. Additionally, wartime production propelled the economy and created jobs, while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission simultaneously prohibited workplace discrimination based on race, sex, and religion.

  • 1966

    - Annual unemployment rate: 3.8%

    In 1966, the U.S. had spent up to $12 billion on the Vietnam War, and by the turn of 1965–66, the GNP was averaging $705 billion annually, with around 8% of it dedicated to the U.S. military budget. In 1966, the approximately 80 million people working averaged an estimated full-time median family income of $7,400, a new high.

  • 1967

    - Annual unemployment rate: 3.8%

    Employment was so strong in the U.S., the minimum wage was raised to $1.40 hourly, up 15 cents from the 1963 increase. The total GDP rose $11.4 billion by 1967, with consumer demand and production stabilizing the unemployment rate at the same percent as the year prior.

  • 1968

    - Annual unemployment rate: 3.6%

    The U.S. economy’s fortitude remained, with unemployment dropping 0.2% in one year, and the minimum wage rising another 20 cents, bumping up the average American pay to 35 cents an hour in less than two years. Jobs were abounding and paying well for U.S. workers, who labored hard while the country was fighting the Vietnam War.

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