This was written on Feb 11th, before today's new, worse numbers came out.
For anyone that still has a job, percentage unemployment numbers mask the misery and potential for unrest felt by those who have lost a job and are nearing the ends of their financial (and other) ropes. Percentage comparisons with employment in the great depression (25% vs now "7.6%") seem to indicate we have a huge distance to cover if we are to approach the misery experienced in the great depression.
But a vastly more interesting and important comparison is of actual total human beings without jobs or who are severely underemployed. The number of people affected at the peak of the depression was 13.5 million unemployed vs today's official number of 11.6 million. Eleven million six hundred thousand human beings unemployed is within a dangerously short distance of the worst number the Great Depression ever printed - and the calculations then were much more conservative than they are today.
Since the 90's, 'discouraged workers', or those had given up looking for a job because there were no jobs to be had, were redefined by the Clinton administration so as to be counted only if they had been 'discouraged' for less than a year. This time qualification defined away the bulk of the discouraged workers. Adding them back into the total unemployed, actual unemployment in order to make a fair "apples to apples" comparison, as estimated by the SGS-Alternate Unemployment Measure, brings us to 17.9% in January!