PolitiFact: Rubio's unemployment claim correct but ignores a key fact

The statement

"We have not had unemployment this high for this long since the Great Depression."

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday

The ruling

Florida Republican Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama of making "every aspect of life in America today" worse since his inauguration during a Sunday talk about the debt on CBS's Face the Nation.

Host Bob Schieffer asked Rubio if he literally meant what he said, so Rubio continued:

"This president has now been in charge for two and a half years, okay? He has increased federal spending by 28 percent. Washington went along with his prescription for joblessness, which was the stimulus package, and unemployment is higher than it was when he took over, significantly higher. In fact, we have not had unemployment this high for this long since the Great Depression, with no signs of it getting better."

Rubio uses a popular historical note of Republicans — the Great Depression — to characterize the country's dire jobs outlook.

Previously, PolitiFact gave GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a False for saying the United States is in the slowest job recovery since President Herbert Hoover. And Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus earned a False for claiming that recent unemployment rates rival those of the Great Depression.

Rubio's claim comes with an important distinction. Instead of comparing recent jobless numbers with the 1930s, he says we have not had unemployment this high for this long since the Great Depression. Unemployment during that time was dreadful, rising to 15.9 percent in 1931 and to 24.9 percent in 1933.

Unemployment figures for the current recession first tipped above 9 percent in May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rates mostly fell between 9 and 10.1 percent for the past 26 months, with the exception of dips in February (8.9) and March 2011 (8.8). The rate for June 2011 is 9.2 percent.

How does that compare to other post-depression periods?

Only one comes close. Unemployment rates of 9 percent or more appeared in the United States in March 1982 and lasted through September 1983. During that 19-month period, the unemployment ranged between 9 and 10.8 percent — including 10 months of unemployment rates higher than 10 percent.

Rubio is right about the country's current unemployment rate not being "this high for this long since the Great Depression." But he doesn't note a period in the 1980s that, while shorter by seven months, had spurts of higher overall unemployment. We rate his claim Mostly True.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version, go to PolitiFact.com/Florida.

PolitiFact: Rubio's unemployment claim correct but ignores a key fact 07/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 9:56pm]

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