For much of the post-World War II period, the
United States routinely had rates of unemployment
higher than those in Western Europe. This pattern
has been reversed in the 1980s; in 1984, the U.S.
suffered with 7.4 percent unemploymenthardly
an impressive figure for what was supposed to be a
year of great economic expansion. However, all of
the major countries of Western Europethe
United Kingdom, West Germany, France, and
Italyhad even higher rates of unemployment. In
Belgium and the Netherlands unemployment was
almost double the American rate at levels of 14
percent. (These are standardized data from Ther-
born.) This dramatic reversal poses a significant
intellectual puzzle, since one would imagine that
the greater strength of the labor movement and
leftist parties in Western Europe would militate
against such high rates of unemployment.
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