The official number is still slightly lower than the brutal winter of 1982-83. But the broad unemployment number says otherwise.
For all the pain caused by the Great Recession, the job market still was not in as bad shape as it had been during the depths of the early 1980s recession — until now.
With the release of the jobs report on Friday, the broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment tracked by the Labor Department has reached its highest level in decades. If statistics went back so far, the measure would almost certainly be at its highest level since the Great Depression.
In all, more than one out of every six workers — 17.5 percent — were unemployed or underemployed in October. The previous recorded high was 17.1 percent, in December 1982.
This includes the officially unemployed, who have looked for work in the last four weeks. It also includes discouraged workers, who have looked in the past year, as well as millions of part-time workers who want to be working full time.
Officially, the Labor Department’s broad measure of unemployment goes back only to 1994. But early this year, with the help of economists at the department, The New York Times created a version that estimates it going back to 1970. If such a measure were available for the Depression, it probably would have exceeded 30 percent.
Compared with the early 1980s, a smaller share of workers today are officially unemployed and a smaller share are considered discouraged workers.
But there are many more people who would like to be working full time and have been able to find only part-time work, according to the government’s monthly survey of workers.