Economic Depression

A depression, which includes both recession (lower production) and deflation (lower prices), develops gradually, but the only ways of ending it may be an increased money supply, including government guaranteed loans and work projects. During the Great Depression, the price of farm products decreased (wheat sold for $2.19/Bu in 1919, $1.03/Bu in 1929, and $0.38/Bu in 1933), and there were decreasing sales in most business and industry. Rents dropped and occu-pancy rates fell, but some rental property was still a good investment. Business inventories, the bankruptcy rate, and the unemployment rate increased. There is a limit to unemployment because some products and services are essential or coveted. People continue to buy food, fuel, and alcohol plus utility, religious, entertainment, medical, travel, government, and funeral services. Some jobs may open in these areas, and some investments are profitable. Unemployment is usually highest in manufacturing, mining, and construction. In the U.S., it peaked at 25% during the Great Depression; small farmers and the unemployed suffered, but there was little effect on half of the population. The unemployment and underemployment rates of a few countries in recent years have exceeded 60%. People cope with high rates through extended families that provide the necessities to their members plus joint ownership of a few luxuries; all decisions are made by one or several patriarchs or matriarchs, and junior members have little personal freedom. Capital is scarce in a depression, and some real estate and profitable businesses must be sold because cash is needed for an emergency. Investors can sometimes buy at bargain-basement prices. Short-term, high-interest loans are also profitable.