Unemployment and the S&P Composite Since 1948
December 4, 2009  monthly update 

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The monthly unemployment rate for November declined to 10% — down from 10.2% in October. Was October's 10.2% the peak in unemployment? Perhaps. However, during the 19 months since May 2008, when employment rose above 5%, the month-over-month number has increased on two other occasions: April 2008 and July 2009. The chart here shows the pattern of unemployment, recessions and both the nominal and real (inflation-adjusted) price of the S&P Composite since 1948.

Unemployment is usually a lagging indicator that moves inversely with equity prices (see chart). Note the increasing peaks in unemployment in 1971, 1975 and 1982. The inverse pattern becomes clearer when viewed against real (inflation-adjusted) S&P Composite, with its successively lower bear market bottoms. The mirror relationship seems to be repeating itself with the current and previous bear markets.

The start date of 1948 was determined by the earliest monthly unemployment figures collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best source for the historic data is the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Here is a link to a Google source for customizable charts on US unemployment data since 1990. You can compare unemployment at the national, state, and county level.