Misery Index at 28-Year High

Unemployment in the U.S. has risen to 9 percent, although employment in the private sector increased more than expected in April.
The misery index--the sum of the unemployment and consumer price inflation rates--hit a 28-year high last month, according to Paul Dales of Capital Economics.

At a recent 12.7, the misery index is at its highest level since 1983. At that time, it peaked at 14.1, which seems high now but at the time was the lowest reading in five years.

However, the misery index is not a fair indicator of life across the board. Unemployment rates differ vastly by race, sex and age--men are suffering more than women, blacks more than whites, and the young more than the old. Male black teenagers, for example, have an unemployment rate above 40%, while adult white women hover around seven percent.

Education is another mitigating factor: Americans with graduate degrees have an unemployment rate of four percent or less, but those with a high school degree only sit in the 10-14% range.

Determining the impact of inflation on people at different socioeconomic levels is harder but certain assumptions have been proven: the wealthy are better at finding different ways to protect their assets and are more likely to have more useful job skills and savvy that enable them to survive better than those in lower income brackets.

So, although the national misery index is sitting at 12.6, an individual's personal index could range anywhere from five to 50, depending on where they fall in the socioeconomic bracket.

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