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The Great Recession’s economic sneezes, colds, and hiccups An international comparison of unemployment rates


The Great Recession (December 2007—June 2009 in the U.S.) impacted unemployment rates very differently across countries. The graph above shows four different countries with noticeable patterns. In each country, unemployment increased during the course of the recession, with the U.S. recession marked by a gray bar. In the U.S. and Japan, the increase was from a relatively low level (below 5%); in France and Germany, however, the unemployment rate at the start of the recession was higher (above 7.5%).

In the U.S., the unemployment rate more than doubled, while in Japan the increase was relatively moderate. In the aftermath of the recession, both these countries experienced long transitions back to their pre-recession level of unemployment: Japan waited until 2013 and the U.S. until 2015. In France, the unemployment rate behaved very differently: It increased by more than 2 percentage points during the recession, but has not exhibited any sign of convergence back to its pre-recession level since then. In fact, it increased even more in 2012 and 2013. Germany presents yet another pattern: After increasing slightly during the recession, the unemployment rate continued on a downward trend that had started back in 2005. The German unemployment rate has now reached a level that’s well below its pre-recession level and is comparable to that of Japan and the U.S.

How this graph was created: In FRED, search for and select “Harmonized Unemployment Rate: Total: All Persons for United States.” From the “Edit Graph” section, select the “Add Line” tab, add “Harmonized Unemployment Rate: Total: All Persons for Japan.” Repeat for “Harmonized Unemployment Rate: Total: All Persons for France” and “Harmonized Unemployment Rate: Total: All Persons for Germany.”

Suggested by Guillaume Vandenbroucke and Heting Zhu.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LRHUTTTTDEM156S, LRHUTTTTFRM156S, LRHUTTTTJPM156S, LRHUTTTTUSQ156S


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