Ok, Here is a chart of the unemployment rate since January, 1948. The data is the unemployment percentage of the civilian population for all persons 16 and older. It is taken from a data series at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This charts highlights a lot of interesting topics.
1) The current recession is longer than previous recessions. At 18 months, it is the longest recession since the great depression. The unemployment rate is about 4% over it's long term average.
2) The long-term unemployment averages (60, 30, 20 and 10 year averages) are generally between 5.2% and 6.1%. The current unemployment rate, 9.5%, is about 3.4-4.3% higher than the long term averages for unemployment
4) In the 80's, 90's and 00's the recessions were relatively mild and short.
5) There have been recent times, when the unemployment rate was low. In April and September of 2000 the unemployment rate was below 4% and in October 2006 is was below 4.5%.