The following chart graphically depicts the total number of EEOC charges filed with the agency from 1997-2011. 

Click here to see chart

http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges.cfm 

What is immediately apparent from this chart is the relationship between the overall economy and the number of filings. The chart begins in the prosperous 90’s (this is how far back the EEOC’s historical online information goes). As the country continued with the dot-com boom, you can see the number of filings going down. The filings, however, tick up again beginning in 2000 as the economy worsened into recession and continuing through the economic fallout associated with 9/11, peaking in mid-2002 and then dropping back down to relatively low levels in 2005. Starting in 2006 and continuing through the fall of the housing market and the subsequent “great recession” the filings shoot up – only leveling off in 2010 and remaining essentially constant in 2011. 

Of interest is how 2012 will be tallied. If the historical pattern holds, the number of total charges should start falling. On the other hand, if the economy heads back into recession, the current plateau simply could be the trough of an even bigger wave. Time will tell.