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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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%.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Wikicommons

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.

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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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Wikicommons

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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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.

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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.

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Wikicommons

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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Wikicommons

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Wikipedia

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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Wikicommons

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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Wikicommons

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Flickr upload bot // Wikicommons

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Ras67 // Wikicommons

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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Minna Sora no Shita // Wikicommons

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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SusanLesch // Wikicommons

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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Teri Tynes // Flickr

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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PFHLai // Wikicommons

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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SecretName101 // Wikicommons

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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David Shankbone // Wikicommons

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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Wikifreund // Wikicommons

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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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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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LaDawna Howard // Flickr

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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Eduardo P // Wikicommons

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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MB298 // Wikicommons

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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MB298 // Wikicommons

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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