In the third quarter of 2008, the U.S. economy was in the midst of the recession that began in December 2007, while the labor market continued a decline that started during the second half of 2007. The third quarter of 2008 saw the national unemployment rate rise to 6 percent and the number of unemployed people reach 9.4 million, an increase of 1.2 percentage points and 2 million people over the fourth quarter of 2007 (all figures seasonally adjusted). Over the same 2007–2008 period, employment was down by almost 1 million people and the employment-population ratio dipped from 62.8 percent to 62.1 percent. Throughout 2008, median weekly earnings grew at about the same rate as inflation.
This report provides an overview of some of the key sources of financial support of the nation’s people and households during this time. The data offer a window into the roles of government-sponsored benefit programs and the labor market during the downturn. When placed within a wider context, the data can contribute to a better understanding of how public and market-oriented financial-support mechanisms respond to varying economic circumstances, and how the role of government programs has changed over time.
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