Factory jobs disappeared. Inflation soared. Unemployment climbed to alarming levels. The hungry lined up at soup kitchens.
It wasn't the Great Depression. It was the 1981-82 recession, widely considered America's worst since the depression.
That painful time during Ronald Reagan's presidency is a grim marker of how bad things can get. Yet the current recession could slice deeper into the U.S. economy.
If it lasts into April—as it almost surely will—this one will go on record as the longest in the postwar era. The 1981-82 and 1973-75 recessions each lasted 16 months.
Unemployment hasn't reached 1982 levels and the gross domestic product hasn't fallen quite as far. But the hurt from this recession is spread more widely and uncertainty about the country's economic health is worse today than it was in 1982.
Back then, if someone asked if the nation was about to experience something as bad as the Great Depression, the answer was, "Quite clearly, `No,"' said Murray Weidenbaum, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan White House.
"You don't have that certainty today," he said. "It's not only that the downturn is sharp and widespread, but a lot of people worry that it's going to be a long-lasting, substantial downturn."
For months, headlines have compared this recession with the one that began in July 1981 and ended in November 1982.
-- In January, reports showed 207,000 manufacturing jobs vanished in the largest one-month drop since October 1982.
-- Major automakers' U.S. sales extended their deep slump in February, putting the industry on track for its worst sales month in more than 27 years.
-- Struggling homebuilders have just completed the worst year for new home sales since 1982.
-- There are 12.5 million people out of work today, topping the number of jobless in 1982.