You've almost certainly been sent this chart or seen it on a blog (BoingBoing and Andrew Sullivan being the biggest culprits I've seen). Now...
You've almost certainly been sent this chart or seen it on a blog (BoingBoing and Andrew Sullivan being the biggest culprits I've seen). Now trust me, I'm pretty sure the economy is in the crapper, but this chart is a wee bit misleading.
That plunging green line, that's the total number of job losses during this recession, as compared to the two recessions before it. You know what happened in between those recessions? We created a lot of jobs and got a lot more people. So, while the total number of unemployed may be greater this time around, percentage wise (which is what the unemployment rate is), we're still doing ok. And by "ok" I mean, still really horribly but just about as horribly as the last three recessions. You should also note that the last two recessions (1990 and 2001) were much, much less bad than this one to begin with. It's really more helpful to compare this to 1981, when things were at a level of badness comensurate with what we're experiencing now. Take a look at this chart:
This is a chart (via the Corner) that shows the unemployment rate during the recessions. As you can see, while the numbers start at different places, the rate of increase is basically the same. So, don't worry too much, this recession is still performing just like we think a recession should. But, also remember that job losses generally peak after the recession had officially ended. So, either things are secretly getting better and we'll find out soon, or, more likely, we potentially have a long, long way to go.