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Linda Yueh

The Unemployment Number We Should Really Watch

Among the lessons of the Great Depression, there is one that we are in danger of failing to learn. 

There’s even more unemployment that you think. 

There’s even more unemployment that you think. 

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

If IMF estimates are accurate, this will be the first time since the Great Depression that both advanced and emerging economies could be in recession. The potential of unemployment rising to double digits is also reminiscent of the depression of the 1930s.

Some of the great economic ideas of our time were forged in the experience of that previous economic collapse, notably through John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. So it’s little surprise that most governments have focused on the lessons the major economists took from that experience — such as extending liquidity to help the financial system (Friedman) and fiscal stimulus to keep the economy going (Keynes). Unfortunately, we are in danger of ignoring the important work of a less heralded mind to come out of this period, Joan Robinson.