Source: Warner Bros. via Bloomberg

Jobless Claims Haven't Been Lower Since the Arab Oil Embargo

The slump in applications shows how far U.S. has come since 1973

The premise of the 1979 movie "Mad Max" was a global oil shortage that created a street war for fuel. There was a reason the movie had a cult following: It had a hook. The Arab oil embargo that began in October 1973 pushed the U.S. into recession, the first indicator of which was a jump in firings and jobless claims.

The film's latest rendition, "Mad Max: Fury Road," is a reminder of how far the U.S. has come.

The latest shock — a plunge in fuel prices — is helping more than hurting the world's largest economy even though the U.S. is one of the top energy producers. While firings are climbing in the oil patch, the benefits of cheaper crude are allowing other employers to keep workers on staff.

The charts below show the four-week average of applications for unemployment insurance benefits in late 1973 and early 2015. The rolling tally surged soon after the Arab oil embargo began in October 1973. Last week, it matched a reading in April 2000 that was the lowest since the months following the start of that fateful oil crisis four decades ago.

Of course, given that the labor force is 75 percent larger now than it was in 1973, firings adjusted for population are lower now than they've ever been. 

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