I am trying out both 2.79 and 2.80 and notice the behavior being the same.
I set the units to imperial and then changed the size of the default scene cube to something reasonable like 5cm. Then I applied the scale. My goal at this point was to make a radial array of 4 items, so I moved the cube 10cm on the x axis. Then I attempted to add an EMPTY cube which seems to come out huge.So I attempted to resize it by changing the dimensions, but it seems that I can put all sorts of numbers and units in the dimension boxes and in response blender just changes these values to some random number/unit combination even so far as up into miles and km.
It also seems odd that though I can choose units such as mm or inches, when looking at things the dimensions are shown in whatever blender seems to be in a whim to show, such as "thou" or "ft" with lots of decimal places.
Either: 1. there is a bug, and it carries over between 2.79 and the current beta of 2.80, (my gut tells me this is unlikely) or 2. I, personally, and not handling units correctly perhaps missing a step somewhere. (as a n00b this would be my guess, since it seems pretty complex of a program)
If I am just doing it wrong, can someone point me in the right direction for how to do it right?