A study of long-term historical facts concerning unemployment may put current numbers in a different perspective.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics:
During the Great Depression, starting in 1929, unemployment approached 25 percent. It was still high, at 14.8 percent, in 1940.
Post-war years (1946 to 1956) were prosperous production catch-up years, with unemployment averaging about 4.2 percent.
In the recession years (1980 to 1984), unemployment had an uptick, averaging 7.8 percent with a high of 9.7 percent in 1982.
The next stretch of relatively low unemployment numbers was 1997 to 2001, when unemployment averaged 4.46 percent.
In the l0 years beginning in 1990, average unemployment was 5.28 percent. The following eight years, before the recession of 2008, unemployment was 5.38 percent.
Therefore, the average unemployment rate through the prior 18 years of relatively good times, which ended in 2007, was above 5.3 percent.
Current unemployment of 7.8 percent is about 2.5 percentage points above that 18-year average.
This is not intended to justify higher unemployment, but to put it in a historical context and to indicate that we may need a revised method of reporting real unemployment based on some historical norms.