The US Economy In Perspective

Mark J. Perry, professor of finance and business economics at the University of Michigan, puts the US economy in perspective:

The unemployment rate in Canada just hit a 30-year low of 6.1% in December, the lowest rate since 1977 when Pierre Trudeau was Canada’s prime minister and Jimmy Carter was U.S. president. During the last U.S. recession from March – November 2001, the unemployment never got higher than 5.5%. When the unemployment rate continued to rise to rise and peaked at 6.3% in June of 2003, it was dismissed as a “jobless recovery.”

When the U.S. unemployment rate is around 6%, it’s called a “jobless recovery.” When the Canadian unemployment is about 6%, it’s celebrated as the lowest jobless rate in a generation. The fact is that the U.S. economy, even its worst years, is still better than most other economies during their best years.

These are no small potatoes, we can quibble all day about what welfare program to support or not, but (involuntary) unemployment is a large and permanent waste on the economy, with no benefactors at all. It is also an economic indicator that directly concerns the poor. One may want Canada’s healthcare system, or Europe’s worker protection ‘rights’, but if unemployment is high it falls most heavily on the poor.

This is why I am not persuaded by Canada’s, Europe’s or Scandinavia’s economic model, we can argue to the sun comes out about whether we need more or less welfare, but when you have 6%+, 10%+, and 15%+ unemployment, your economy is clearly inferior to one that has 4%+ (and if you add in the minority unemployment rate, which is usually double and sometimes triple the average unemployment rate, those countries become downright dreadful to brown people like myself).

The full article can be found here. More can be found here.

120 Responses to “The US Economy In Perspective”


  • You have a good point. At the very least, the poor people in Canada can at least enjoy basic healthcare and other necessities in life. I lived in a country that averaged 18% unemployment and sure, there were tons of poor people, but I saw a much higher degree of poverty here in the USA than there. The standard of living seemed higher at the lower levels than it did here. Obviously, at slightly higher levels it was better in the USA.

  • The economics of it is that the poor in Europe, atleast those that are employed, have at most an equal standard of living to those in the United States and as you move up the economic ladder, the standard of living increases significantly for those in the United States, see here for one example. So your experience does not match economic data and may result in not properly comparing apples to apples.

    On the other hand, the standard of living of the brown person, with European unemployment double sometimes triple the unemployment of the USA, is downright pathetic. I’d much rather be a poor brown person in the USA than in Europe.

  • The low unemployment rate in the US is even more impressive when you consider the number if immigrants. These people are coming here to find jobs, not to go on welfare. And the US economy is able to accomodate them.

  • Hispanic Pundit,

    Good essay.

    For grins, you would have fun writing on the relationship between
    1. sales, income and property taxes
    2. employment/gang-violence
    3. demographic change

    What I’ve got in mind is the differences between Texas and California economies. They both have about the same demographic flux. Texas has a relatively low ‘social service’ style government compared to California. Texas relies on sales tax and property tax, but has no personal income-tax. California has a high income tax and sales tax, but keeps property taxes low for corporations and long time property owners. Do these differences account for the differences in employment/gang-violence?

  • HP-
    Speaking of apples to apples. Each of those countries measure employment rates differently. For example Canada uses a base population of those over 15 years old, whereas the US starts at 16. So of course they are going to have a different figure.

  • Sparsh,

    Yeah, but that would only result in a 1% reduction in the Canadian unemployment rate – and even smaller in the European countries. A difference, but not a difference that changes my point above, especially when the minority unemployment rate would still be so much larger than that in the USA (I may sound here like I am using the race card, I am not, my point here is that the unemployment rate is a measure that directly affects the poor and minority, and I believe that all economic models should also be judged on how they treat these two groups).

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