Will recession lead to high unemployment levels of the 1980s?

Previous UK recessions have seen unemployment figures soar to more than three million. The worst recessions since the Second World War were in the mid-1970s, the early 1980s and 1990s.

In 1972 unemployment topped one million in the UK and there was a 1.4 per cent fall in GDP in 1974, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Unemployment was said to be the country's biggest concern when Labour prime minister James Callaghan lost the general election to Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Callaghan had tried to keep unemployment low but struggled to reduce inflation at the same time.

Around 1.4 million people were unemployed and voters decided to give the Conservatives a chance.

Three years after Thatcher took power unemployment passed three million for the first time since the 1930s depression which followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929. One in eight people were out of work.

Rates of unemployment varied across the country - in Northern Ireland it was nearly 20 per cent and in most parts of Scotland, the North East and North West it was around 15 per cent. Only in the South East did unemployment levels register at lower than 10 per cent.

It was the manufacturing sector that particularly suffered, according to the website economicshelp.org.

The biggest post-war fall in annual GDP was recorded in the 1980 recession, when it dropped by 2.1 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Conservatives struggled to stabilise the economy and in the early 1990s the country fell into recession again. In 1991, the economy shrank in three consecutive quarters and annual GDP fell 1.4 per cent compared to the previous year.

On September 16 1992 - so-called Black Wednesday - Britain withdrew from the Exchange Rate Mechanism, costing billions. Employment once again shot up, peaking at 2.9 million in 1993.

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