The Covid-19 recession feels mild compared with the 1980s – so far | Larry Elliott

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The bulk of the pain has been borne by government and business, but that is about to change

Those of us with long enough memories can vividly recall the recession of the early 1980s. Unemployment climbed inexorably as many of the big names of British industry collapsed or restructured. The economic pain was palpable and bled straight into popular culture, music and TV drama in particular. Even now, just the mention of Boys from the Blackstuff conjures up the despair of joblessness and communities being torn apart.

Compared with the hit taken by the economy this year, the slump of the early 80s was a mild affair. The 25% peak to trough fall in output seen in two months – March and April – was four times as great as the decline suffered in 1980 and 1981. Yet, so far at least, it couldn’t really be said that the recession has been four times as bad.

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