It was me. I know I have heard those numbers so I started digging. I guess a lot of these records have never been posted on the internet. :)
Did they define unemployment then as they do now? For a long time now you only count if you are looking for work. Surveys are now done by phone. In the 30s I wonder what methods were used. And to be honest I'll bet the rates in NYC and Chicago were different in many ways than where I grew up outside of the small city (remote from almost anywhere) of Paducah. Lots of folks were working in the 30s but not making much money. My dad's high school class was very small due to most of the kids dropping out way before they turned 16 to go to work to help the family out.
But here's what I've found so far. A table I found that was supposed to be based on government labor stats had 10,390,000 unemployed in1938, 9,480,000 in 1939, 8,120,000 in 1940, and 5,560,000 in 1941. This translates into unemployment rates of 19.9%, 17.1%, 14.5%, and 9.%.
But these numbers are skewed for due to WWI, the US started ramping up aircraft production about this time. As best I can tell B17 production alone in 38 and 39 accounted for 2000 assembly jobs plus all the indirect supplier jobs, grocery store, clothing stores, etc ... And there were a lot of other plans being produced in larger numbers. On12/7/41 we had 4 fully equipped carriers in the Pacific plus more under construction. And a deployed carrier, even in 1941, represented a huge number of jobs. Both in crew, support, and just building it and the planes. Plus we were shipping planes to England and France in 1938, 1939, and 1940. (We lost over 100 carrier planes when France fell and they were interred for the duration of the war.)
Then add in that nearly 1,000,000 men were drafted (army only?) in 1941.
So the question I have is how of the recovery was without war and pre-war spending? Any? I know life was tough for my dad's farm family. He was born in 1925 and says the ONLY reason the had food was that they had a slaughter house operation saw mill and were big enough to be able to supply schools and such and not be dependent on the local farmers markets. And he talks about a life that was closer to little house on the prairie than 1960.
Here's the stats I have. Plus now I'm interested enough to try and find out what the increased pre-war spending did for the economy. So I get to dig deeper.
Year Pop Labor Force LF % Unemployed Rate1929 88,010,000 49,440,000 56.18% 1,550,000 3.14 1930 89,550,000 50,080,000 55.92% 4,340,000 8.67 1931 90,710,000 50,680,000 55.87% 8,020,000 15.82 1932 91,810,000 51,250,000 55.82% 12,060,000 23.53 1933 92,950,000 51,840,000 55.77% 12,830,000 24.75 1934 94,190,000 52,490,000 55.73% 11,340,000 21.60 1935 95,460,000 53,140,000 55.67% 10,610,000 19.97 1936 96,700,000 53,740,000 55.57% 9,030,000 16.80 1937 97,870,000 54,320,000 55.50% 7,700,000 14.18 1938 99,120,000 54,950,000 55.44% 10,390,000 18.91 1939 100,360,000 55,600,000 55.40% 9,480,000 17.05 1940 101,560,000 56,180,000 55.32% 8,120,000 14.45 1941 102,700,000 57,530,000 56.02% 5,560,000 9.66 [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Regards food to eat during the depression years, my father was born in 1922 and my mother was born in 1924, and they both migrated to Coffeyville, KS in their childhood years. My mother pointed out that in the 1930-40 time period, she could come home from the grocery store with two or three _large_ bags of groceries for five dollars. Of course, many guys did not have the five dollars. One reason there were few -- if any -- 'help wanted' ads in newspapers was because almost instantly upon a job becoming available, 'word' got around and someone would walk in off the street and ask for it. PAT]