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The Inexorable Recoveries of U.S. Unemployment

Working Papers

2021-20 | August 2021


Author(s): Robert E. Hall and Marianna Kudlyak

Unemployment recoveries in the US have been inexorable. Between 1949 and 2019, the annual reduction in the unemployment rate during cyclical recoveries was tightly distributed around 0.1 log points per year. The economy seems to have an irresistible force toward restoring full employment. Unless another crisis intervenes, unemployment continues to glide down to a level of approximately 3.5 percentage points. Occasionally unemployment rises rapidly during an economic crisis, while most the time, unemployment declines slowly and smoothly at a near-constant proportional rate. We show that similar properties hold for other measures of the US unemployment rate and for the unemployment rates of six other advanced countries.

Article Citation

Hall, Robert E, and Marianna Kudlyak. 2021. “The Inexorable Recoveries of U.S. Unemployment,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2021-20. Available at

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