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State of the U.S. economy during the year you were born

  • Henry Han // Wikicommons
    1/ Henry Han // Wikicommons

    State of the U.S. economy during the year you were born

    In the past century, the United States has gone from a developing industrial nation to a global economic powerhouse. It’s survived two major recessions (and several minor ones), weathered numerous wars, and evolved and grown from manufacturing to service to the tech sector.  This country’s economy has covered more ground in the past hundred years than other nations have covered in their entire histories, which is why Stacker set out to trace the milestones, pitfalls and major events that define the economic legacy of the century.

    This story combines economic data and contextual information on what was happening in the U.S. each year to trace the country’s economy from the roaring twenties to the 2008 recession and beyond.  In each slide, you can find six metrics describing the economy from that year. These metrics include the Consumer Price Index, which gives the weighted average price of a bundle of goods and services and can be used to track inflation, the Gross Domestic Product, a combined monetary value of all goods and services produced within a country’s borders during a given year, the nation’s federal debt, the unemployment rate, and the average or Median household income of U.S. households.  All data has been adjusted for inflation using the 2017 CPI.

    Read on to find out how the U.S. economy was faring the year you were born and why, as well as all of the years before and after it.

    Sources for these data are as follows:

  • Orange County Archives // Flickr
    2/ Orange County Archives // Flickr

    1920

    Population: 106.5 million

    CPI annual average: 20 (+15.6% annual change)

    GDP: $1,093 billion ($10,268 per capita)

    Federal debt: $318,042 million (29.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 1.3%

    Average household income: $16,417

    Inflation and spending during World War I led to a recession in 1920, now often called a “forgotten depression,” with high inflation rates and high unemployment.  Also, Prohibition (a national ban of the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol) went into effect this year.

  • Keystone View Company // Wikicommons
    3/ Keystone View Company // Wikicommons

    1921

    Population: 108.5 million

    CPI annual average: 17.9 (-10.9% annual change)

    GDP: $1,017 billion ($9,373 per capita)

    Federal debt: $328,317 million (32.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 11.2%

    Average household income: $14,490

    In order to recover from the recession, the federal government cut half of its spending and reduced tax rates for all income brackets in a laissez-faire move.  Much of the private sector was already recovering by the summer of 1921.

  • Copyright by Moffett, Chicago. J241772 U.S. Copyright Office. // Wikicommons
    4/ Copyright by Moffett, Chicago. J241772 U.S. Copyright Office. // Wikicommons

    1922

    Population: 110.0 million

    CPI annual average: 16.8 (-6.2% annual change)

    GDP: $1,081 billion ($9,823 per capita)

    Federal debt: $335,019 million (31.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.8%

    Average household income: $16,353

    1922 saw continued recovery from the 1920-1921 depression in a dropping unemployment rate.  President Warren Harding also continued to reduce the national budget.

  • Preus museum // Wikicommons
    5/ Preus museum // Wikicommons

    1923

    Population: 111.9 million

    CPI annual average: 17.1 (+1.8% annual change)

    GDP: $1,236 billion ($11,037 per capita)

    Federal debt: $320,346 million (25.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 1.7%

    Average household income: $18,189

    In August, 1923, President Harding died of a heart attack, leading Calvin Coolidge to take over as president. Coolidge’s top priority was business: he aimed to clean up corruption, lower taxes, and reduce government spending.

  • P & A-Pacific and Atlantic Photos // Wikicommons
    6/ P & A-Pacific and Atlantic Photos // Wikicommons

    1924

    Population: 114.1 million

    CPI annual average: 17.1 (+0.4% annual change)

    GDP: $1,258 billion ($11,029 per capita)

    Federal debt: $304,595 million (24.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.6%

    Average household income: $17,970

    President Coolidge won a full term in office in 1924.  Major cultural institution Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) was founded, and the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was held in New York City.

  • Wikipedia
    7/ Wikipedia

    1925

    Population: 115.8 million

    CPI annual average: 17.5 (+2.4% annual change)

    GDP: $1,280 billion ($11,052 per capita)

    Federal debt: $287,344 million (22.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 1.8%

    Average household income: $18,153

    In 1925, the federal tax rate for the highest income bracket was lowered to 25% - the lowest it has been since World War I.

  • NASA // Wikicommons
    8/ NASA // Wikicommons

    1926

    Population: 117.4 million

    CPI annual average: 17.7 (+0.9% annual change)

    GDP: $1,356 billion ($11,548 per capita)

    Federal debt: $272,009 million (20.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 1%

    Average household income: $18,344

    Robert Goddard successfully launched the first liquid-fuel rocket in Massachusetts in 1926, a precursor to later NASA designs.  Down south, a massive hurricane devastated Miami and nearby parts of Florida, causing damages that would cost over $150 billion today.

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    9/ Wikicommons

    1927

    Population: 119.0 million

    CPI annual average: 17.4 (-1.9% annual change)

    GDP: $1,359 billion ($11,419 per capita)

    Federal debt: $260,763 million (19.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.5%

    Average household income: $18,481

    1927 was the year of Charles Lindbergh’s landmark solo flight from New York to Paris.  It was also the year of further government moves towards a laissez-faire system, as the discount rate on loans made to banks was lowered from 4% to 3.5%.

  • Alexandra Studios // Wikicommons
    10/ Alexandra Studios // Wikicommons

    1928

    Population: 120.5 million

    CPI annual average: 17.2 (-1.2% annual change)

    GDP: $1,401 billion ($11,624 per capita)

    Federal debt: $250,861 million (17.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.9%

    Average household income: $18,859

    In 1928, widespread speculation on Wall Street caused a huge increase in stock prices (an average of about 40% increase). This event later became known as the Great Bull Market.

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    11/ Wikicommons

    1929

    Population: 121.8 million

    CPI annual average: 17.2 (0.0% annual change)

    GDP: $1,491 billion ($12,241 per capita)

    Federal debt: $24,128 million (1.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 0.9%

    Average household income: $19,662

    Herbert Hoover, who had served as the Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, became the U.S. president in 1929.  He was confident in American economic prosperity when he was sworn in, but by the following September, the stock market was beginning to pull back.  The crash culminated on October 24, “Black Thursday,” when a record 12,894,650 shares were traded in one day; this marked the beginning of the Great Depression.

  • Wikicommons
    12/ Wikicommons

    1930

    Population: 124.0 million

    CPI annual average: 16.7 (-2.7% annual change)

    GDP: $1,353 billion ($10,909 per capita)

    Federal debt: $237,546 million (17.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.9%

    Average household income: $17,815

    Early efforts to defend against the Great Depression included the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which President Hoover signed into law on June 17, 1930.  The bill raised foreign tariff rates in an attempt to keep money in the U.S. rather than investing in Europe, causing a sharp downturn in global trade.

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    13/ Wikicommons

    1931

    Population: 124.0 million

    CPI annual average: 15.2 (-8.9% annual change)

    GDP: $1,248 billion ($10,062 per capita)

    Federal debt: $270,921 million (21.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 14.2%

    Average household income: $16,164

    No major legislation was passed relating to the Depression in 1931.  However, unemployment rose sharply (from 5.9% in 1930 to 14.2% in 1931), and the GDP continued to fall.

  • State Library of New South Wales // Wikicommons
    14/ State Library of New South Wales // Wikicommons

    1932

    Population: 124.8 million

    CPI annual average: 13.6 (-10.3% annual change)

    GDP: $1,072 billion ($8,589 per capita)

    Federal debt: $3,512 million (0.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 22.7%

    Average household income: $13,594

    On July 8, 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its lowest point of the Great Depression: 41.22.  The Summer Olympics, which opened in Los Angeles later that month, were held on a tight budget.

  • Wikipedia
    15/ Wikipedia

    1933

    Population: 125.6 million

    CPI annual average: 12.9 (-5.2% annual change)

    GDP: $1,087 billion ($8,654 per capita)

    Federal debt: $428,235 million (39.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 23.4%

    Average household income: $13,240

    President Hoover was decidedly unpopular after his tenure during the Depression, helping Franklin Delano Roosevelt win the presidential election of 1932 by a landslide.  Immediately upon being sworn in, FDR took action: in the first 100 days of his presidency, 15 bills were passed that redistributed the nation’s wealth from the government and the wealthy to those who were in need.

  • Wikicommons
    16/ Wikicommons

    1934

    Population: 126.4 million

    CPI annual average: 13.4 (+3.5% annual change)

    GDP: $1,222 billion ($9,668 per capita)

    Federal debt: $50,358 million (4.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 19%

    Average household income: $14,542

    1934 marked the beginning of America’s recovery from the Great Depression, largely thanks to policies spearheaded by FDR and a democratically led Congress.  Unemployment rate dropped below 20% and the GDP began to rise again.

  • NOAA George E. Marsh Album // Wikicommons
    17/ NOAA George E. Marsh Album // Wikicommons

    1935

    Population: 127.3 million

    CPI annual average: 13.7 (+2.6% annual change)

    GDP: $1,329 billion ($10,446 per capita)

    Federal debt: $513,474 million (38.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 17.6%

    Average household income: $15,746

    Due to over-farming and drought in the Midwest and Southern Great Plains, these regions suffered intense poverty during the 1930s, now known as the Dust Bowl.  The worst dust storm, coined “Black Sunday” by reporters, struck on April 14, 1935; up to three million tons of topsoil blew off the Great Plains and moved east.  This event motivated Congress to pass New Deal programs to help displaced farmers and improve the land in the wake of environmental degradation.

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    1936

    Population: 128.1 million

    CPI annual average: 13.9 (+1.0% annual change)

    GDP: $1,497 billion ($11,691 per capita)

    Federal debt: $595,620 million (39.8% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 14.1%

    Average household income: $17,282

    As the country continued to recover from economic depression, Americans across the nation experienced an intense heat wave.  Many cities, including New York, Columbus, Baltimore, and Minneapolis, recorded their hottest temperatures in history in the summer of 1936.

  • Unnamed WPA photographer. // Wikicommons
    19/ Unnamed WPA photographer. // Wikicommons

    1937

    Population: 128.8 million

    CPI annual average: 14.4 (+3.7% annual change)

    GDP: $1,583 billion ($12,288 per capita)

    Federal debt: $619,977 million (39.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 12.2%

    Average household income: $18,123

    The Wagner Act, passed in 1935, protected workers’ rights, encouraged collective bargaining, and created the National Labor Relations Board to investigate unfair labor practices.  Employer groups led by the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation questioned this Board, but the Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional in a landmark court case in 1937.

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    1938

    Population: 129.8 million

    CPI annual average: 14.1 (-2.0% annual change)

    GDP: $1,519 billion ($11,702 per capita)

    Federal debt: $646,034 million (42.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 18.4%

    Average household income: $16,670

    Economic recovery faltered in 1937 and 1938, when government spending was reduced and the Treasury Department decided to sterilize (limit) gold inflows, leading to lowered production and increased unemployment.  This policy was reversed later that year.

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    21/ Florida Keys--Public Libraries // Wikicommons

    1939

    Population: 130.9 million

    CPI annual average: 13.9 (-1.3% annual change)

    GDP: $1,649 billion ($12,597 per capita)

    Federal debt: $713,074 million (43.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 16.3%

    Average household income: $17,762

    Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, marking the beginning of World War II.  Although the U.S. officially declared neutrality, FDR’s “cash and carry” policy permitted American companies to sell weapons to fighting nations.

  • Puttnam L A (Lt), War Office official photographer // Wikicommons
    22/ Puttnam L A (Lt), War Office official photographer // Wikicommons

    1940

    Population: 132.1 million

    CPI annual average: 14 (+0.7% annual change)

    GDP: $1,801 billion ($13,635 per capita)

    Federal debt: $887,542 million (49.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 12.7%

    Average household income: $18,596

    As World War II raged on in Europe, many American business leaders advocated for “preparedness” for the country to enter the fight through strengthening ties with the U.S.’s allies and converting industries to war material.  The first peacetime draft in U.S. history was instituted in September of that year.

  • Wikicommons
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    1941

    Population: 133.4 million

    CPI annual average: 14.7 (+5.1% annual change)

    GDP: $2,158 billion ($16,173 per capita)

    Federal debt: $959,241 million (44.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.5%

    Average household income: $21,736

    In January of 1941, FDR introduced the “lend-lease” program, which allowed America to send military aid to England without technically getting involved in World War II.  The U.S. did finally join the fight that year, however, after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

  • Wikipedia
    24/ Wikipedia

    1942

    Population: 134.9 million

    CPI annual average: 16.3 (+10.9% annual change)

    GDP: $2,496 billion ($18,509 per capita)

    Federal debt: $1,190,915 million (47.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 2.7%

    Average household income: $25,253

    FDR created the War Production Board, directed by former Sears Roebuck executive Donald Nelson, in 1942.  The War Production Board worked to manage the U.S.’s wartime economy through balancing military needs with civilian needs, including curtailing the military’s budget and allocating all steel, aluminum, and copper to manufacturers.

  • U.S. Air Force // Wikicommons
    25/ U.S. Air Force // Wikicommons

    1943

    Population: 136.7 million

    CPI annual average: 17.3 (+6.0% annual change)

    GDP: $2,877 billion ($21,043 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,020,984 million (70.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 1.3%

    Average household income: $29,201

    World War II was devastating for many nations, but it stimulated the American economy like nothing before.  In 1943, the GDP (adjusted for inflation) was almost 2.5 times that of the GDP in 1933 ($778,300 million), and 40% of the gross national product was attributed to war-related industries.

  • Wikipedia
    26/ Wikipedia

    1944

    Population: 138.4 million

    CPI annual average: 17.6 (+1.6% annual change)

    GDP: $3,128 billion ($22,600 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,842,032 million (90.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 0.9%

    Average household income: $30,926

    Delegates from all 44 Allied nations met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire for the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in July of 1944.  This conference resulted in plans for a global economy after the defeat of Germany and Japan, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

  • Wikipedia
    27/ Wikipedia

    1945

    Population: 139.9 million

    CPI annual average: 18 (+2.3% annual change)

    GDP: $3,107 billion ($22,207 per capita)

    Federal debt: $3,542,008 million (114.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.7%

    Average household income: $30,226

    1945 marked the end of World War II, with the German surrender on May 8 and the Japanese surrender on August 14.  About 16 million Americans had served in the war, and economic sectors from shipbuilding to nuclear power (kicked off by the Manhattan Project, which cost about $2 billion) had been completely transformed.

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    28/ Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer // Wikicommons

    1946

    Population: 141.4 million

    CPI annual average: 19.5 (+8.5% annual change)

    GDP: $2,863 billion ($20,251 per capita)

    Federal debt: $3,406,148 million (119.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.6%

    Average household income: $28,608

    After the war’s end, the federal government severely cut back on spending, from $84 billion in 1945 to under $30 billion in 1946.  Keynesian economists predicted that this would return the nation to widespread unemployment, but labor markets adjusted quickly and the economy remained secure.

  • Edmonston Studio // Wikicommons
    29/ Edmonston Studio // Wikicommons

    1947

    Population: 144.1 million

    CPI annual average: 22.3 (+14.4% annual change)

    GDP: $2,747 billion ($19,057 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,826,333 million (102.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 2.8%

    Average household income: $27,453

    The U.S. began to put its newly gained wealth to global use in 1947 with the beginning of the Truman Doctrine, which emerged from a speech President Truman gave in March urging Congress to provide monetary support to the Greek government in its fight against the Greek Communist Party.  The speech set a precedent of America supporting democratic nations under threat from communist forces that would continue throughout the Cold War.

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    1948

    Population: 146.6 million

    CPI annual average: 24 (+7.7% annual change)

    GDP: $2,806 billion ($19,139 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,573,867 million (91.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4%

    Average household income: $27,937

    The channeling of American wealth overseas continued with the Marshall Plan, named after Secretary of State George C. Marshall.  Through this plan, sixteen Western European nations received almost $13 billion in aid, helping them to restart their economies.

  • Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer // Wikicommons
    31/ Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer // Wikicommons

    1949

    Population: 149.2 million

    CPI annual average: 23.8 (-1.0% annual change)

    GDP: $2,809 billion ($18,831 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,601,458 million (92.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.6%

    Average household income: $27,597

    minor recession took place from fall 1948 into 1949, demonstrated in declining industrial production, declining exports, and a rise in unemployment.  However, with expanded government spending (especially in the military and foreign aid), the nation was soon back on track.

  • Pfc. Wayne H. Weidner // Wikicommons
    32/ Pfc. Wayne H. Weidner // Wikicommons

    1950

    Population: 152.3 million

    CPI annual average: 24.1 (+1.1% annual change)

    GDP: $3,053 billion ($20,050 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,612,227 million (85.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.3%

    Average household income: $29,786

    The United States entered the Korean War in June 1950, providing South Korean forces with financial and military aid in their attempts to dispel the USSR-backed North Korean invasion.  The fighting would end in 1953 when Korea was divided along the 38th parallel.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration // Wikicommons
    33/ The U.S. Food and Drug Administration // Wikicommons

    1951

    Population: 154.9 million

    CPI annual average: 26 (+7.9% annual change)

    GDP: $3,274 billion ($21,139 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,406,580 million (73.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.1%

    Average household income: $30,690

    The summer of 1951 was a time of crisis in the midwest when the Kansas River flooded due to heavy rains, forcing thousands of people to abandon their homes and workplaces.  The damages due to this flood were $760 million, equivalent to over $5 billion today.

  • Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer // Wikicommons
    34/ Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer // Wikicommons

    1952

    Population: 157.6 million

    CPI annual average: 26.6 (+2.3% annual change)

    GDP: $3,388 billion ($21,504 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,387,394 million (70.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 2.7%

    Average household income: $31,665

    In April 1952, President Truman authorized the Secretary of Commerce to seize and operate America’s steel mills in order to prevent a strike by dissatisfied steel workers.  This move towards nationalization did not stand, however, as the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in June.

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    1953

    Population: 160.2 million

    CPI annual average: 26.8 (+0.8% annual change)

    GDP: $3,564 billion ($22,249 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,432,371 million (68.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.5%

    Median household income: $38,795

    The field of biology saw landmark innovation in 1953, as James Watson and Francis Crick published their famous paper describing the double helix structure of DNA.  In Washington, Dwight Eisenhower was sworn in as president; soon after he took office, he signed an armistice signaling the end of the Korean War.

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    1954

    Population: 163.0 million

    CPI annual average: 26.9 (+0.3% annual change)

    GDP: $3,564 billion ($21,859 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,467,510 million (69.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5%

    Median household income: $37,968

    The U.S. economy was booming in 1954, but social tensions were high: Senator Joseph McCarthy publicly investigated the U.S. army for being “soft” on communism, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of integrating public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. 1954 also marked the beginning of mass polio vaccinations.

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    1955

    Population: 165.9 million

    CPI annual average: 26.8 (-0.3% annual change)

    GDP: $3,898 billion ($23,491 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,509,220 million (64.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.2%

    Median household income: $40,405

    In December of 1955, America’s two largest labor unions, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, merged to form one large, unified body: the AFL-CIO.  Although AFL leadership was more conservative and the CIO was more liberal, the two unions had common goals and significant bargaining power when unified.

  • National Archives and Records Administration // Wikicommons
    38/ National Archives and Records Administration // Wikicommons

    1956

    Population: 168.9 million

    CPI annual average: 27.2 (+1.5% annual change)

    GDP: $4,056 billion ($24,013 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,457,245 million (60.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.2%

    Median household income: $43,073

    The interstate highway system, now an essential part of the American landscape, was born in June 1956, when President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This bill allocated $26 billion to build a 41,000-mile highway network spanning the nation. Eisenhower was re-elected for a second presidential term that same year.

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    39/ BrokenSphere // Wikicommons

    1957

    Population: 172.0 million

    CPI annual average: 28.1 (+3.3% annual change)

    GDP: $4,142 billion ($24,085 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,374,696 million (57.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.2%

    Median household income: $43,316

    In 1957, two major stock exchanges on the west coast, the San Francisco Stock Exchange and the Los Angeles Oil Exchange, merged to form the Pacific Stock Exchange.  Among others, this new Exchange was led by financial moguls Elias Jackson Baldwin and George Hearst.

  • Uwe W. // Wikicommons
    40/ Uwe W. // Wikicommons

    1958

    Population: 174.9 million

    CPI annual average: 28.9 (+2.7% annual change)

    GDP: $4,088 billion ($23,375 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,371,839 million (58.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.2%

    Median household income: $43,143

    Hoping to match its economic prosperity with technological advancement, the U.S. launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958, following the U.S.S.R.’s launch of Sputnik in 1957.  It would successfully orbit Earth over 50,000 times before re-entering the atmosphere in 1970.

  • Abbie Rowe // Wikicommons
    41/ Abbie Rowe // Wikicommons

    1959

    Population: 177.8 million

    CPI annual average: 29.2 (+1.1% annual change)

    GDP: $4,386 billion ($24,663 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,412,934 million (55.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.3%

    Median household income: $45,469

    The current 49th and 50th U.S. states joined the union in 1959: Alaska joined on January 3, and Hawaii followed on August 21.  Alaska in particular would go on to benefit the U.S. economy through its rich natural resources.

  • Seliger // Wikicommons
    42/ Seliger // Wikicommons

    1960

    Population: 180.7 million

    CPI annual average: 29.6 (+1.5% annual change)

    GDP: $4,499 billion ($24,900 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,405,665 million (53.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.6%

    Median household income: $46,536

    A minor recession hit the U.S. in April 1960, demonstrated by a rise in unemployment (over 6%) and lowered product demand.  This recession was also known as the “rolling adjustment” for some industries - particularly the automobile industry - which had to adjust as Americans switched from buying American-made products to buying foreign products.

  • Reino Kalevi Lehtonen // Wikicommons
    43/ Reino Kalevi Lehtonen // Wikicommons

    1961

    Population: 183.7 million

    CPI annual average: 29.9 (+1.1% annual change)

    GDP: $4,618 billion ($25,138 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,398,931 million (52.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6%

    Median household income: $47,012

    The U.S. recovered from the “rolling adjustment,” and economic expansion of the 1950s continued into the 60s, marked by the merging of corporations into conglomerates and the decline of single-proprietor businesses.  The American middle class was clearly here to stay.

  • Seattle Municipal Archives // Wikicommons
    44/ Seattle Municipal Archives // Wikicommons

    1962

    Population: 186.5 million

    CPI annual average: 30.3 (+1.2% annual change)

    GDP: $4,895 billion ($26,240 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,450,418 million (50.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.5%

    Median household income: $48,179

    In 1962, the first World’s Fair to be held in the U.S. since World War II opened in Seattle, Washington.  Seattle’s Fair, a monumental enough project for the city to build a new monorail line, drew 10 million visitors from around the world and was a major economic boost for the west coast.

  • Robert Knudsen, White House // Wikicommons
    45/ Robert Knudsen, White House // Wikicommons

    1963

    Population: 189.2 million

    CPI annual average: 30.6 (+1.2% annual change)

    GDP: $5,115 billion ($27,029 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,485,634 million (48.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.5%

    Median household income: $50,053

    As part of a campaign to reduce the circulation of Silver Certificates, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 1110 in June, 1963.  This order gave the Secretary of the Treasury power to control the issue of this currency.

  • Roger L. Stevens Collection // Wikicommons
    46/ Roger L. Stevens Collection // Wikicommons

    1964

    Population: 191.9 million

    CPI annual average: 31 (+1.3% annual change)

    GDP: $5,422 billion ($28,257 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,498,905 million (46.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5%

    Median household income: $51,937

    President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was sworn into office after Kennedy’s assassination, was reelected to a full term in 1964.  Domestically, his policies focused on fighting poverty through the introduction of work training programs, education reform, Medicare and Medicaid, and other programs.  He was still largely unpopular, however, because of his decisions to increasingly involve America in the Vietnam War.

  • Wikipedia
    47/ Wikipedia

    1965

    Population: 194.3 million

    CPI annual average: 31.5 (+1.6% annual change)

    GDP: $5,787 billion ($29,782 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,507,941 million (43.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4%

    Median household income: $54,132

    LBJ was officially sworn into office in January of 1965; he established Medicare and Medicaid later that year with the Social Security Act of 1965.  This year also marked the beginning of major protests against the Vietnam War, including the first public burning of a draft card and public self-immolation

  • U.S. Information Agency // Wikicommons
    48/ U.S. Information Agency // Wikicommons

    1966

    Population: 196.6 million

    CPI annual average: 32.5 (+3.0% annual change)

    GDP: $6,146 billion ($31,270 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,477,380 million (40.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.8%

    Median household income: $56,803

    Despite increasing Vietnam War protests in 1966, the American economy was largely unaffected by the war: in 1965 and 1966, only about 8% of the Gross National Product was spent on the military.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 1,000 for the first time in January of this year.

  • continent. // Wikicommons
    49/ continent. // Wikicommons

    1967

    Population: 198.7 million

    CPI annual average: 33.4 (+2.8% annual change)

    GDP: $6,323 billion ($31,822 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,498,295 million (39.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.8%

    Median household income: $58,215

    Social tension continued in 1967 - including the violent Detroit Race Riots and a march of 100,000 on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War - although GDP and unemployment remained steady.  This year also saw the swearing in of Thurgood Marshall, America’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

  • manhhai // Wikicommons
    50/ manhhai // Wikicommons

    1968

    Population: 200.7 million

    CPI annual average: 34.8 (+4.3% annual change)

    GDP: $6,638 billion ($33,074 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,596,687 million (39.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.4%

    Median household income: $60,796

    On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced a partial halt to the bombing of North Vietnam and proposed peace talks, although troops would remain in Vietnam until 1973.  Johnson added that he would not seek reelection.

  • Pxhere
    51/ Pxhere

    1969

    Population: 202.7 million

    CPI annual average: 36.7 (+5.5% annual change)

    GDP: $6,811 billion ($33,607 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,442,779 million (35.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.5%

    Median household income: $62,998

    1969 was the year that man walked on the moon.  It was also President Richard Nixon’s first year in the Oval Office; he was faced with inflation problems starting that December.

  • University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability // Flickr
    52/ University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability // Flickr

    1970

    Population: 205.1 million

    CPI annual average: 38.8 (+5.8% annual change)

    GDP: $6,796 billion ($33,145 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,406,282 million (35.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.1%

    Median household income: $62,330

    Issues of increasing inflation continued into 1970; President Nixon attempted to combat the oncoming recession with tax reform legislation, but inflation and unemployment continued to rise. 1970 also marked the first celebration of Earth Day.

  • TharonXX // Wikicommons
    53/ TharonXX // Wikicommons

    1971

    Population: 207.7 million

    CPI annual average: 40.5 (+4.3% annual change)

    GDP: $7,067 billion ($34,033 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,470,221 million (35.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6%

    Median household income: $62,243

    In August 1971, President Nixon declared a state of national emergency and announced the New Economic Plan (N.E.P.), which ironically shares a name with Soviet policies put into effect by Vladimir Lenin 50 years earlier.  This plan included a surcharge on imports and the freezing of prices, wages, and rents for 90 days, with future price controls to come.

  • NIH Intramural Research Program
    54/ NIH Intramural Research Program

    1972

    Population: 209.9 million

    CPI annual average: 41.8 (+3.3% annual change)

    GDP: $7,520 billion ($35,825 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,556,170 million (34.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.2%

    Median household income: $65,180

    Nixon’s New Economic Plan had great short-term success in 1972; production output rose and unemployment fell, helping Nixon win his second term in office.  However, the plan would be less successful in the long run, as it contributed to negative repercussions of the oil embargo the next year.

  • Wehwalt  // Wikicommons
    55/ Wehwalt // Wikicommons

    1973

    Population: 211.9 million

    CPI annual average: 44.4 (+6.2% annual change)

    GDP: $7,886 billion ($37,213 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,574,052 million (32.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.9%

    Median household income: $66,525

    Recession struck the U.S. again in 1973 when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), including Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, agreed to stop exporting oil to the U.S. after the U.S. supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War.  The Nixon administration kept tight control on wages, prices, and interest rates, which led to mass layoffs as companies struggled to stay in business.

  • Alaska Blue Book // Wikicommons
    56/ Alaska Blue Book // Wikicommons

    1974

    Population: 213.9 million

    CPI annual average: 49.3 (+11.1% annual change)

    GDP: $7,700 billion ($36,006 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,405,724 million (31.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.2%

    Median household income: $64,144

    In response to the oil recession, the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act was passed and signed into law in January, 1974.  This act included a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour, intended to conserve American use of oil.  The OPEC embargo was lifted in March, but drivers continued to face high gas prices ($11.65/barrel) and demand increased for energy-efficient cars.

  • LSE Library // Flickr
    57/ LSE Library // Flickr

    1975

    Population: 216.0 million

    CPI annual average: 53.8 (+9.1% annual change)

    GDP: $7,694 billion ($35,626 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,468,881 million (32.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 8.2%

    Median household income: $62,501

    Although the OPEC embargo had been lifted in 1974, America took more time to recover from the oil recession.  Unemployment reached a high of 9% in May of 1975.  The turning point marking the end of the recession finally came in March; it lasted a total of 16 months, longer than any recession since World War II.

  • Wikipedia
    58/ Wikipedia

    1976

    Population: 218.0 million

    CPI annual average: 56.9 (+5.7% annual change)

    GDP: $8,088 billion ($37,094 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,709,324 million (33.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.8%

    Median household income: $64,432

    On July 4, 1976, the U.S. celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; festivities had been planned starting 10 years earlier.  Many marginalized groups protested ceremonies purporting American unity.

  • Wikipedia
    59/ Wikipedia

    1977

    Population: 220.2 million

    CPI annual average: 60.6 (+6.5% annual change)

    GDP: $8,437 billion ($38,308 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,857,065 million (33.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.4%

    Median household income: $64,749

    The nation was fully recovered from the oil recession by 1977: the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank reported that, between winter 1975 and winter 1978, “production had increased by at least 16 percent and more than 7.7 million workers had found new jobs,” largely due to increased consumer spending.

  • SecretName101 // Wikicommons
    60/ SecretName101 // Wikicommons

    1978

    Population: 222.6 million

    CPI annual average: 65.2 (+7.6% annual change)

    GDP: $8,859 billion ($39,800 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,919,404 million (33.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6%

    Median household income: $66,312

    The beginning of 1978 caused challenges for the U.S. economy, in the forms of a massive blizzard in the northeastern U.S. that forced thousands from their homes, and a three-month-long nationwide coal strike.  Still, overall recovery continued; unemployment was down to 6% by the end of the year.

  • Warren K. Leffler // Flickr
    61/ Warren K. Leffler // Flickr

    1979

    Population: 225.1 million

    CPI annual average: 72.6 (+11.3% annual change)

    GDP: $8,886 billion ($39,484 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,800,308 million (31.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6%

    Median household income: $66,126

    In 1979, the automobile giant Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy due to high gas prices (which skyrocketed again in 1979) and other factors driving Americans to purchase more energy-efficient Japanese cars rather than American models.  The federal government bailed the company out with a $1.5 billion loan, saving over 300,000 jobs.

  • US National Archives bot // Wikicommons
    62/ US National Archives bot // Wikicommons

    1980

    Population: 227.2 million

    CPI annual average: 82.4 (+13.5% annual change)

    GDP: $8,515 billion ($37,472 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,703,956 million (31.8% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.2%

    Median household income: $62,533

    Oil price spikes caused by the Iranian revolution of 1979, combined with a restrictive monetary policy put into place by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker in order to combat inflation, caused a recession in the first six months of 1980.  Recovery appeared to be on the horizon that summer, but it soon faltered, coinciding with new President Ronald Reagan’s cuts in domestic spending.

  • Bombastus // Wikicommons
    63/ Bombastus // Wikicommons

    1981

    Population: 229.5 million

    CPI annual average: 90.9 (+10.3% annual change)

    GDP: $8,658 billion ($37,731 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,682,424 million (31.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 8.5%

    Median household income: $60,366

    The recession of 1980 continued through the summer of 1981, as the federal reserve once again reduced its output in a failing attempt to combat inflation.  This move caused high interest rates, which put particular pressure on industries dependent upon borrowing money such as manufacturing and construction, leading to heavy layoffs in those sectors.

  • Seattle Municipal Archives // Flickr
    64/ Seattle Municipal Archives // Flickr

    1982

    Population: 231.7 million

    CPI annual average: 96.5 (+6.1% annual change)

    GDP: $8,496 billion ($36,674 per capita)

    Federal debt: $2,888,662 million (34.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 10.8%

    Median household income: $59,517

    Unemployment from the early 80s recession reached its peak in 1982 at almost 11%, the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. since the Great Depression.  Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker stuck to his guns and did not significantly loosen monetary policy, but interest rates fell, taxes and the national budget were reduced, and recovery had begun by the end of the year.

  • BilCat // Wikicommons
    65/ BilCat // Wikicommons

    1983

    Population: 233.8 million

    CPI annual average: 99.6 (+3.2% annual change)

    GDP: $8,953 billion ($38,294 per capita)

    Federal debt: $3,375,440 million (37.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 8.3%

    Median household income: $60,488

    Another big government bailout occurred in 1983 - this time of Social Security, which was in serious danger of becoming unable to supply pensions to retired workers.  In a strategy lauded at the time as a bipartisan victory (but harmful for retirees today), President Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill raised the retirement age and required government employees to pay into social security, among other changes.

  • Flickr upload bot // Wikicommons
    66/ Flickr upload bot // Wikicommons

    1984

    Population: 235.8 million

    CPI annual average: 103.9 (+4.3% annual change)

    GDP: $9,532 billion ($40,420 per capita)

    Federal debt: $3,690,857 million (38.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.3%

    Median household income: $62,355

    In 1984, New Orleans hosted the final World’s Fair to be held in the U.S.  This fair had high expectations, but was underfunded from the beginning and eventually only attended by about 7 million people (of a hoped-for 15 million).  It closed with a total debt of $102 million in November.

  • Pi.1415926535 // Wikicommons
    67/ Pi.1415926535 // Wikicommons

    1985

    Population: 237.9 million

    CPI annual average: 107.6 (+3.5% annual change)

    GDP: $9,901 billion ($41,615 per capita)

    Federal debt: $4,139,873 million (41.8% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7%

    Median household income: $63,177

    The position of the U.S. economy grew worrying in 1985 as economists noted an increasing federal debt and trade deficit, with the Federal Reserve facing negative repercussions if it tightened or loosened credit.  In the private sector, it was a year of conglomeration: General Electric bought RCA Corporation (parent of the NBC television network), and Capital Cities Communications bought ABC.

  • Cobatfor // Wikicommons
    68/ Cobatfor // Wikicommons

    1986

    Population: 240.1 million

    CPI annual average: 109.6 (+1.9% annual change)

    GDP: $10,265 billion ($42,748 per capita)

    Federal debt: $4,742,106 million (46.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.6%

    Median household income: $65,877

    1986 was not a great year, either: the L.A. Times reported that the GDP only grew by 2.5% over the course of the year, its worst since the midst of the recession (1982).  The government was running deficits to pay for tax cuts and military expansion, and a sharp decline in oil prices led to massive unemployment in the oil and gas industries.

  • Roger Hsu // Flickr
    69/ Roger Hsu // Flickr

    1987

    Population: 242.3 million

    CPI annual average: 113.6 (+3.7% annual change)

    GDP: $10,508 billion ($43,369 per capita)

    Federal debt: $5,061,565 million (48.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.7%

    Median household income: $66,820

    A dramatic stock market crash took place on October 19, 1987 - now known as Black Monday, the “worst day in Wall Street history.”  The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 22.6%, more than any other single day in history.  The crash has since been attributed to high interest rates, inflation, and trading computer programs that automatically liquidated stocks as the market began to fall, leading to a domino effect around the world.

  • Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times
    70/ Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times

    1988

    Population: 244.5 million

    CPI annual average: 118.3 (+4.1% annual change)

    GDP: $10,883 billion ($44,510 per capita)

    Federal debt: $5,389,101 million (49.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.3%

    Median household income: $66,695

    BlackRock, a global asset management firm now called “the most powerful shadow bank in the world,” was founded in 1988 by eight experts in fixed-income security.  This firm marks an increasing trend in the U.S. economy towards investment with asset managers rather than with banks or large firms.

  • Jebur~commonswiki // WikiCommons
    71/ Jebur~commonswiki // WikiCommons

    1989

    Population: 246.8 million

    CPI annual average: 124 (+4.8% annual change)

    GDP: $11,183 billion ($45,309 per capita)

    Federal debt: $5,668,530 million (50.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.4%

    Median household income: $67,626

    The savings and loan industry had experienced rapid growth throughout the 1980s, but much of this growth was due to investments in increasingly risky projects and the payment of increasingly high interest rates.  Many businesses failed at high costs for taxpayers, especially in Texas, leading the federal government (now under President George Bush) to reform the industry with the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989.

  • Hohum // Wikicommons
    72/ Hohum // Wikicommons

    1990

    Population: 249.6 million

    CPI annual average: 130.7 (+5.4% annual change)

    GDP: $11,213 billion ($44,922 per capita)

    Federal debt: $6,012,714 million (53.6% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.3%

    Median household income: $66,297

    The Gulf War coincided with a recession in 1990.  A combination of factors including the savings and loan collapse, lack of stability in the stock market, and high oil prices due to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait led to a decline in the GDP and rising unemployment.

  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images
    73/ Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    1991

    Population: 253.0 million

    CPI annual average: 136.2 (+4.2% annual change)

    GDP: $11,110 billion ($43,918 per capita)

    Federal debt: $6,475,135 million (58.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.3%

    Median household income: $64,674

    Although tensions in the Middle East were part of the causes of the early 90s recession, U.S. involvement in the Gulf War also helped bring oil prices and inflation back down, buffered by Americans at the time remaining faithful that the markets would rise back up.  The New York Times reported that “America's foreign balance swung from a $23.4 billion deficit in the fourth quarter of 1990 to a $10.2 billion surplus in the first quarter of 1991.”

  • File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske) // Wikicommons
    74/ File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske) // Wikicommons

    1992

    Population: 256.5 million

    CPI annual average: 140.3 (+3.0% annual change)

    GDP: $11,424 billion ($44,535 per capita)

    Federal debt: $6,991,005 million (61.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.4%

    Median household income: $63,892

    The U.S. had mostly recovered from the recession of 1990 and 1991 in 1992, though unemployment remained fairly high that year.  Still, worries about America’s future carried Bill Clinton to a victory in the 1992 presidential election as he talked about the “Bush recession,” arguing that an economic overhaul was necessary.

  • Hagindaz~commonswiki // Wikicommons
    75/ Hagindaz~commonswiki // Wikicommons

    1993

    Population: 259.9 million

    CPI annual average: 144.5 (+3.0% annual change)

    GDP: $11,668 billion ($44,889 per capita)

    Federal debt: $7,380,214 million (63.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.5%

    Median household income: $62,690

    The late 1990s was a good period for the American economy under the leadership of President Bill Clinton.  His first budget, drafted in 1993 for the 1994 fiscal year, cut spending and increased taxes in a move that arguably led to budget surplus later in the decade.

  • BotMultichillT // Wikicommons
    76/ BotMultichillT // Wikicommons

    1994

    Population: 263.1 million

    CPI annual average: 148.2 (+2.6% annual change)

    GDP: $12,088 billion ($45,939 per capita)

    Federal debt: $7,679,315 million (63.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.5%

    Median household income: $64,139

    1994 was a contradictory year: although the economy grew overall, the stock market and bond market both suffered.  Economists claimed that money was flowing out of Wall Street and back into the “real world” of actual goods and services.

  • THERESE FRARE/AFP/Getty Images
    77/ THERESE FRARE/AFP/Getty Images

    1995

    Population: 266.3 million

    CPI annual average: 152.4 (+2.8% annual change)

    GDP: $12,326 billion ($46,290 per capita)

    Federal debt: $7,913,620 million (64.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.6%

    Median household income: $65,313

    Two major economic developments occurred in 1995.  First, on January 1, the World Trade Organization was founded, aiming to operate global trade rules and mediate in disputes.  Second, on August 24, Windows 95 was released, catapulting the internet into explosive growth.  These factors, combined with other successes, made 1995 one of the last years when “it was still possible to believe that the United States was the leading world economy.”

  • Wikicommons
    78/ Wikicommons

    1996

    Population: 269.4 million

    CPI annual average: 156.9 (+2.9% annual change)

    GDP: $12,654 billion ($46,971 per capita)

    Federal debt: $8,094,181 million (64.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.4%

    Median household income: $66,079

    The U.S. economy continued to grow in 1996; low inflation was particularly notable, as the “core” rate only rose by 2.6%, its lowest rate in over 30 years.  But in a famous speech in December of that year, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan warned investors not to get too comfortable in “irrational exuberance” and slow down on buying.

  • mark reinstein // Shutterstock
    79/ mark reinstein // Shutterstock

    1997

    Population: 272.7 million

    CPI annual average: 160.5 (+2.3% annual change)

    GDP: $13,146 billion ($48,215 per capita)

    Federal debt: $8,199,330 million (62.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.7%

    Median household income: $68,060

    In 1997, some experts believed the U.S. economy was “too good to be true,” while others cited technology and other changes as the markers of a “new paradigm.”  Low inflation continued to hold from previous years, and unemployment had dropped below 5% for the first time in over a decade.

  • BotMultichillT // Wikicommons
    80/ BotMultichillT // Wikicommons

    1998

    Population: 275.9 million

    CPI annual average: 163 (+1.6% annual change)

    GDP: $13,667 billion ($49,545 per capita)

    Federal debt: $8,237,449 million (60.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.4%

    Median household income: $70,278

    Signs that maybe, yes, the U.S. economy was in fact too good to be true began to emerge in 1998.  Currency devaluations in several Asian countries, a drop in oil prices, lower corporate bond rates, and a disproportionately prosperous stock market all surprised and worried Federal Reserve researchers.

  • Flickr upload bot // Wikicommons
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    1999

    Population: 279.0 million

    CPI annual average: 166.6 (+2.2% annual change)

    GDP: $14,213 billion ($50,934 per capita)

    Federal debt: $8,246,781 million (58.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4%

    Median household income: $71,840

    The Euro was introduced on January 1, 1999, presenting a competing currency on the level of the U.S. dollar for the first time in decades.  The stock market was still soaring later that year, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 10,000 for the first time on March 29.

  • Joe Raedle/Newsmakers
    82/ Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

    2000

    Population: 282.2 million

    CPI annual average: 172.2 (+3.4% annual change)

    GDP: $14,639 billion ($51,881 per capita)

    Federal debt: $8,011,582 million (54.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 3.9%

    Median household income: $72,209

    Unemployment fell to 3.9% in 2000, the lowest rate in 30 years.  Jobs grew in the service industries even as an old giant, Montgomery Ward, announced that it would close its doors towards the end of the year.  Meanwhile, the Dotcom bubble burst: internet stocks fell $1.7 trillion from a high that had started in 1997 when investors began buying anything internet-related without actually assessing its value.

  • 9/11 Photos // Flickr
    83/ 9/11 Photos // Flickr

    2001

    Population: 285.0 million

    CPI annual average: 177.1 (+2.8% annual change)

    GDP: $14,700 billion ($51,585 per capita)

    Federal debt: $7,985,307 million (54.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.7%

    Median household income: $71,145

    Most Americans were not particularly affected by the huge tech crash resulting from the popping of the Dotcom bubble, as the majority of tech stocks were held by the rich.  However, the crash still had a big enough effect to drive unemployment up to 5.7%.  Furthermore, the tragic events of 9/11 worsened this recession, as the New York Stock Exchange closed for the first time since the Great Depression and the federal government channeled money into the military.

  • Meutia Chaerani / Indradi Soemardjan // Wikicommons
    84/ Meutia Chaerani / Indradi Soemardjan // Wikicommons

    2002

    Population: 287.6 million

    CPI annual average: 179.9 (+1.6% annual change)

    GDP: $14,956 billion ($51,998 per capita)

    Federal debt: $8,444,848 million (56.5% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6%

    Median household income: $70,410

    The effects of the Dotcom recession continued into 2002: investors fearful of changes wrought by the war in Afghanistan sold stocks on a monumental scale, leading to the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 1,360 points in only ten days in June.  The Dow hit its lowest point on October 9, 2002, closing at 7,286.27.

  • Alex Wright // Flickr
    85/ Alex Wright // Flickr

    2003

    Population: 290.1 million

    CPI annual average: 184 (+2.3% annual change)

    GDP: $15,333 billion ($52,853 per capita)

    Federal debt: $9,004,780 million (58.7% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.7%

    Median household income: $70,173

    On May 23, 2003, Congress passed the Jobs and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act to speed up recovery post-recession through lowering taxes and giving tax breaks to businesses.  This legislation was useful in the short term, as it funneled money towards investors and consumers, but lower taxes would cause the federal debt to double under the Bush administration.

  • Spencer Platt/Getty Images
    86/ Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    2004

    Population: 292.8 million

    CPI annual average: 188.9 (+2.7% annual change)

    GDP: $15,927 billion ($54,394 per capita)

    Federal debt: $9,542,755 million (59.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.4%

    Median household income: $70,145

    The U.S. economy grew back following the Dotcom recession of the early 2000s, but its growth was slower than expected in 2004.  The GDP grew by about 4%, but most of the growth went towards the upper class: the income of the top 1% grew by 12% while the income of the bottom 99% only grew by 1.5%, and the median family income fell.

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    2005

    Population: 295.5 million

    CPI annual average: 195.3 (+3.4% annual change)

    GDP: $16,432 billion ($55,606 per capita)

    Federal debt: $9,921,091 million (60.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.9%

    Median household income: $70,523

    At the end of 2005, the economy (which had been growing slowly) took a sharp downturn as consumers cut spending on cars, business investment slowed, the price of oil surged, and military spending fell.  Some economists also began to worry that the housing bubble might soon burst.

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    2006

    Population: 298.4 million

    CPI annual average: 201.6 (+3.2% annual change)

    GDP: $16,846 billion ($56,457 per capita)

    Federal debt: $10,274,930 million (61.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.4%

    Median household income: $71,010

    GDP rose 3.4% in 2006 in spite of high interest rates and oil prices.  The service industry continued to grow and average wages rose, but the housing boom had ended, leading to major job losses in related industries.  Furthermore, the federal government continued to run large deficits.

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    2007

    Population: 301.2 million

    CPI annual average: 207.3 (+2.9% annual change)

    GDP: $17,118 billion ($56,825 per capita)

    Federal debt: $10,582,862 million (61.8% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5%

    Median household income: $72,543

    The U.S. economy seemed to be holding up okay in 2007… until late that summer, when the public became aware that mortgage debt was a much shakier ground for investment than banks had realized.  This realization led to a crisis of confidence: no bank knew how much other banks were impacted by shaky credit, and so no bank wanted to trade with any other.

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    2008

    Population: 304.1 million

    CPI annual average: 215.3 (+3.8% annual change)

    GDP: $16,756 billion ($55,101 per capita)

    Federal debt: $11,368,271 million (67.8% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.3%

    Median household income: $70,036

    The mortgage crisis came to a head on September 14, 2008, when one major securities firm, Merrill Lynch, sold itself to Bank of America, and another, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy.  These two firms were followed by near-bankruptcies of many other banks previously deemed “too big to fail” in the U.S. and around the world, which had to be bailed out by their governments.

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    2009

    Population: 306.8 million

    CPI annual average: 214.5 (-0.4% annual change)

    GDP: $16,476 billion ($53,707 per capita)

    Federal debt: $13,570,028 million (82.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 9.9%

    Median household income: $68,660

    In the spring of 2009, the banking crisis became a public, national crisis on a global scale.  Debtor nations such as the U.S. and Greece were unable to pay back creditor nations such as China and Germany, and there was little international cooperation underway to push towards recovery.  U.S. unemployment peaked at 10% in October.  And new president Barack Obama, despite a bold inauguration speech and an expensive Recovery Act, was not very popular by the end of the year.

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    2010

    Population: 309.3 million

    CPI annual average: 218.1 (+1.6% annual change)

    GDP: $16,817 billion ($54,362 per capita)

    Federal debt: $15,203,625 million (90.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 9.3%

    Median household income: $67,693

    Troubles continued for the U.S. economy in 2010, but legislators took steps towards recovery with the HIRE Act, which gave incentives for employers to take on new employees, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which put into place extensive reform and regulation measures on Wall Street.  In the third quarter of this year, American companies made a record $1.66 trillion, but the average worker was still struggling; unemployment at the end of the year was 9.3%.

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    2011

    Population: 311.7 million

    CPI annual average: 224.9 (+3.2% annual change)

    GDP: $16,912 billion ($54,263 per capita)

    Federal debt: $16,090,310 million (95.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 8.5%

    Median household income: $66,451

    The economy grew slowly in 2011.  Congress took from April to August to pass a budget for the next fiscal year, cutting $38 billion and narrowly avoiding a government shutdown.  And Occupy Wall Street protests began that fall, calling attention to the centralization of wealth among the top 1% of Americans.

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    2012

    Population: 314.0 million

    CPI annual average: 229.6 (+2.1% annual change)

    GDP: $17,246 billion ($54,924 per capita)

    Federal debt: $17,134,498 million (99.4% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 7.9%

    Median household income: $66,443

    GDP growth increased slightly from 1.8% in 2011 to 2.2% in 2012.  Unemployment remained high (8.5% at the end of the year), yet no legislation was passed to create new jobs.  The situation was not helped by Hurricane Sandy, which hit New Jersey and New York in late October to the tune of at least 650,000 homes destroyed and $71.5 billion in economic damage.

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    2013

    Population: 316.2 million

    CPI annual average: 233 (+1.5% annual change)

    GDP: $17,558 billion ($55,528 per capita)

    Federal debt: $17,587,696 million (100.2% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 6.7%

    Median household income: $67,129

    After stagnating for most of 2013, the economy grew significantly in the final quarter of the year.  This boom was largely due to consumer spending: MarketWatch reported that spending on services rose 2.5% and spending on cars, computers, and other long-lasting goods rose 5.9%.

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    2014

    Population: 318.6 million

    CPI annual average: 236.7 (+1.6% annual change)

    GDP: $18,046 billion ($56,648 per capita)

    Federal debt: $18,425,973 million (102.1% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5.6%

    Median household income: $68,997

    Economic recovery was going strong in 2014; economists called this year “the strongest year for monthly job growth since 1999.”  The GDP also continued to rise (albeit slowly), and the Affordable Care Act took effect, benefitting over 30 million Americans by the end of the year.

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    2015

    Population: 320.9 million

    CPI annual average: 237 (+0.1% annual change)

    GDP: $18,740 billion ($58,399 per capita)

    Federal debt: $18,739,401 million (100.0% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 5%

    Median household income: $73,113

    GDP saw decent expansion in 2015 while the financial market suffered, particularly in the energy industry.  Gus Faucher, deputy chief economist at The PNC Financial Services Group, reported: “Of the overall $160 billion annualized decline in profits, $124 billion came from petroleum and coal products.”  In the tech industry, Radio Shack filed its second bankruptcy in two years.

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    2016

    Population: 323.1 million

    CPI annual average: 240 (+1.3% annual change)

    GDP: $19,020 billion ($58,863 per capita)

    Federal debt: $19,846,278 million (104.3% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.7%

    Median household income: $74,252

    The economy grew more slowly in 2016; in the final quarter of the year, GDP grew at a rate of 1.9%, its slowest pace since recession-era 2011.  In his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to cut taxes and regulations in order to boost growth to 4%.  Many voters were skeptical, but Trump triumphed in the 2016 election.

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    2017

    Population: 326.8 million

    CPI annual average: 245.1 (+2.1% annual change)

    GDP: $19,391 billion ($59,338 per capita)

    Federal debt: $20,149,416 million (103.9% of GDP)

    Unemployment rate: 4.1%

    Median household income: Data not yet released

    Unemployment in 2017 fell to 4.1%, its lowest rate in over 15 years.  The GDP grew more, and the S&P 500 delivered total returns every month for the first time in its history.  While the Trump administration has publicly taken credit for these victories, analysts at the Harvard Business School have suggested that these figures are, in fact, due to trends carrying over from Obama’s presidency.

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