# a 16-year low

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#### Kacy.H

##### Senior Member
President Trump said the unemployment rate dropped to a 16-year low in May.

I want to learn how to use "a 16-year low". Because it is "a low" rather than "the low", I don't know whether it means the lowest level in 16 years or one of the lowest levels in 16 years.

Many many thanks

• #### bibliolept

##### Senior Member
It would be understood to mean the single lowest level recorded or reported in 16 years.

#### Kacy.H

##### Senior Member
It would be understood to mean the single lowest level recorded or reported in 16 years.
So if the homeownership rate had its lowest point in 1992 over the period between 1990 and 2000, i can say the homeownership rate hit a 10-year low in 1992.
Am I right? Many many thanks.

#### JulianStuart

##### Senior Member
So if the homeownership rate had its lowest point in 1992 over the period between 1990 and 2000, i can say the homeownership rate hit a 10-year low in 1992.
Am I right? Many many thanks.
No. It does not mean "the lowest point within a ten year period". A ten year low would be the lowest value since the value ten years ago (where it was just as low or lower). In the intervening ten year period it was always higher than that value and today's value.
For example: In 1950 it was 5. Ever since then it has been 6 or higher. In 2018 it dropped all the way to 5 again. That is a 68-year low.

#### kentix

##### Senior Member
Using that phrase you always start from where you are at the moment and count backwards.

It's 2018:
The rate of home ownership has hit a ten-year-high. You have to go back ten years to find a rate that was higher. In 2008 it was even or higher.

The rate of home ownership hit a ten-year-low in 1992. You would have to go back to 1982 to find a rate that was lower.

The rate of home ownership hit a fourteen-year-low in 1992. You would have to go back to 1978 to find a rate that was lower.

So if the homeownership rate had its lowest point in 1992 over the period between 1990 and 2000, i can say the homeownership rate hit a 10-year low in 1992.

You can say, "The home ownership rate hit its low for the decade (of the 1990s) in 1992."

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#### The pianist

##### Senior Member
It is not a 'rate'; I don't care who said it. It is a percentage. Show me where a dependent variable is changing with respect to an independent variable. It isn't here!

"The unemployment percentage hit a 16-year low in May."

#### JulianStuart

##### Senior Member
It is not a 'rate'; I don't care who said it. It is a percentage. Show me where a dependent variable is changing with respect to an independent variable. It isn't here!

"The unemployment percentage hit a 16-year low in May."
The accepted term (at least in the business world, as opposed to the statistics and mathematics etc world) since the 60s is unemployment rate. (much preferred over percentage)
One dictionary definition (distinct from yours)
a certain amount of one thing considered in relation to a unit of another thing :a rate of 10 cents a pound.
Those who started using the term may have used this (as opposed to yours) definition as their model: a fraction of the workforce unemployed considered in relation to full employment as 100%

##### Senior Member
I am very curious about the repeated assertions that "an n-year low" can only relate to a period ending in the present (if I have understood the comments correctly).

Are we saying that the below makes no sense?

Sales of blue widgets hit a fifteen-year low in 1990, but have grown rapidly ever since.

#### kentix

##### Senior Member
The rate of home ownership hit a ten-year-low in 1992. You would have to go back to 1982 to find a rate that was lower.
You have to start with your point of reference, whether now or at a specified date in the past, and go backward from there - never forward.

#### Myridon

##### Senior Member
The number could be that low multiple times in the ten-year period.
I am very curious about the repeated assertions that "an n-year low" can only relate to a period ending in the present (if I have understood the comments correctly).

Are we saying that the below makes no sense?

Sales of blue widgets hit a fifteen-year low in 1990, but have grown rapidly ever since.
The problem with that sentence: Is that the lowest value between 1975 and 1990 or the lowest value between 1990 and 2005 or some other 15 years which includes 1990?