10/17/2009 03:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The View from the Depression, an Illustration

A bit off our usual polling focus, but Joe Nocera has a nice article in the New York Times Friday. It reviews the recently published depression diary of Benjamin Roth, giving  a contemporary account of what it was like. Nocera does a great job of using the diary as a vehicle to talk about the policy issues of that era and ties them to our current issues.
This post is an illustration for his text. The fall, then rise, of unemployment, and the rebound then second drop of the stock market in the 1937-38 period are an implicit warning for our current condition as Nocera discusses. 
And here is our current unemployment condition, in states and nationally. Click the chart for a full size version.
ADDENDUM 10/18/09: Mark Sadowski posted a great comment below on the controversy over which measures of unemployment should be used to examine the Depression and New Deal era.  This is a debate that has had a flourish of renewed interest as some have argued that the New Deal had little effect on unemployment. Mark's comment below provides a great overview of these issues with pointers to the relevant literature. 
For comparison, here is another version of the chart, with the original and revised data plotted. While the difference may matter for some purposes, as an illustration of Nocera's article it is the timing of shifts that matters, and those shifts are closely parallel.