I keep reading and hearing about the current economic situation being the worst since the great depression. No doubt things are not going well for the economy. But the 80s had some tough economic times, especially early in the decade.
Unemployment was very high in the early 80s. The industrial Midwest was referred to as the "rust belt" due to foreign competition wiping out manufacturing jobs. Japanese car imports captured a substantial share of the US market, Chrysler required a bail out and many manufacturing companies went bankrupt.
The unemployment rate peaked in 1982 at 10.8%, which was no where near depression levels but substantially above where we are today.
Inflation and interest rates were also high compared to today. At the beginning of the 80s inflation was over 10% and mortgage interest rates were over 16%. GDP growth was negative in 1982 (-1.9%) versus positive growth so far this year (+2.1%).
The 80s also featured a number of economic shocks. At the beginning of the decade we had the bursting of the energy bubble. While positive overall for the US economy, this decimated the energy industry and cities like Houston.
We had the stock market melt down in 1987, when the market lost over 20% in one day.
We had the S&L crisis. The chart on the right is taken from the Carpe Diem blog (an excellent economics blog) and shows the number of bank failures over the last couple of decades.
We had huge trade deficits with Japan and many believed Japan would quickly surpass the US as world's leading economic power.
While the 80S saw the rise of detente and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the global political situation was unstable. England went to war with Argentina, the Soviets shot down a Korean Air passenger plane and famine destabilized much of Africa.
So while the current economic situation is not good, based on the numbers the "worst since the depression" seems be an exaggeration.