“Unemployment Rates in France, the United States, and the Euro Area, 1985- 2011” shows quarterly unemployment rates for the United States, France, and Europe as a whole. In the late 1980s, unemployment fell in both the United States and France, although the US unemployment rate was about two percentage points lower than the French rate. The 1990s were a different story. Unemployment rates increased in both countries at the beginning of the decade. Thereafter, the unemployment rate decreased in the United States, but it continued to increase in France for about half of the decade and decreased only near the end of century. From the early 1990s up to about 2008, the unemployment rate in Europe was substantially higher than that in the United States. The pattern for Europe as a whole closely matches the pattern for France, although unemployment in France is typically a little higher than the European average. The crisis of 2008, however, led to a dramatic rise in the unemployment rate in the United States. At the end of 2007, the US unemployment rate was just under 5 percent. Two years later, at the start of 2010, the rate was over 10 percent. Unemployment also rose in Europe, but to nothing like the same degree. In early 2011, US and European unemployment rates were almost identical. One other feature of the data is noticeable: there is a regular seasonal pattern in the data. For example, in the United States, unemployment is almost always higher in the first quarter of the year than it is in the preceding or following quarter. This is because some sectors of the economy are heavily affected by seasonal patterns. For example, stores may hire extra people during the Christmas holiday period, while construction firms may employ fewer people during the winter months. Sometimes, data such as these are “seasonally adjusted” to remove these effects.
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Unemployment in the United States and Europe