According to figures released by the Department of Labor, the real marker of American unemployment stands at 17.5 percent -- a figure which takes into account under-employed workers and those who have not sought work in the last four weeks, according to a published report.
"If statistics went back so far, the measure would almost certainly be at its highest level since the Great Depression," reporter David Leonhardt wrote in Friday's edition of The New York Times.
The report continued: "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."
While official unemployment statistics were not available during the Great Depression, Department of Labor economists working with the Times estimated that some 30 percent of the U.S. workforce was put out during that period, the report added.
President Barack Obama called the figures "sobering," responding to widespread media accounts that placed the figure just over 10 percent, noting the department's calculation of workers who are actively searching for jobs.
"To that end, my economic team is looking at ideas such as additional investments in our aging roads and bridges, incentives to create jobs and steps to increase the flow of credit to small businesses," the president said.
Fred Dickson at DA Davidson & Co. said the report "continues to point to an economy that is struggling, but the picture is not nearly as dire as seen at the beginning of the year."
"Slowly, the trajectory is improving, but, given the huge number of unemployed and underemployed, our view of a very slow economic recovery in 2010 and 2011 remains very much in place," he added. "This report will not do much to encourage the Fed to raise rates anytime soon."
The number of unemployed persons increased to 15.7 million. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed has risen by 8.2 million, the Labor Department said.
The world's largest economy grew at a seasonally adjusted 3.5 percent annual rate in the July-September period. The increase was the first since the second quarter of 2008.
For the US economic community, the recession will not be over until it is declared by a research panel, National Bureau of Economic Research, recognized as the official arbiter of business cycles.
President Obama on Friday signed a measure to extend unemployment benefits and enact a new tax credit for home buyers.