Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis Blog is one of the best blogs on the economy that I've encountered. He has written a post concerning unemployment that is very telling. It is worth reading the whole thing.
The publicized unemployment number is currently 8.5%, much higher than the 5-6% rate we've become accustomed to see in the last fifteen years. Yet this is a deceptive number. During the Clinton administration unemployment was divided into two reported numbers. The first is called U-3, but this does not include "marginally attached workers" and those "employed part time for economic reasons."
So in essence there is a segment of the population that is basically unemployed but is not reported as such. This is a deceptive move by the government to under report the unemployment rate. Yet another example of a way the government manipulates the public.
So the "real" unemploment rate is currently 15.6%--an alarming figure that approaches the levels of the great depression which averaged close to 20% unemployment for a decade.
Here is a graph from the post showing the unemployment rate from 1970 to today:
Looks ugly, no?