Still caught up in the hustle (with virtually no flow to speak of), but on the other hand, at least I'm working.
In the media, unemployment is like the deficit - a vague, poorly defined number that pundits kick about because it's a number, and therefore useful as a benchmark or indicator of something equally vague and poorly defined. Of course, to economists and hopefully to policy-makers unemployment isn't poorly defined at all. But when was the last time you heard anyone on the teevee break down exactly what the number meant and how the BLS arrived at it?
Allow me to put a human face or two on the statistic: in the United States, a nation of 304,059,724 people, an unemployment rate of 10.2% means there are approximately 31,000,000 people looking for work. That's about half the population of the United Kingdom and roughly equal to the population of Iraq. The broadest measure of unemployment, U6, is 17.6%, which translates to nearly 54,000,000 people looking for work.
Those are brutal numbers. Keep them in mind over the next few weeks as pundits kick the unemployment number around in order to score political points.
EDIT/UPDATE: Culture of Truth has corrected my math; I was calculating my numbers out of the total US population rather than the working adult population. Stupid. That's what I get for ciphering while I'm at work. The proper number of unemployed comes out to around 15,700,000 - still a staggering number, nearly twice the population of New York City. Using the U6 measurement there are nearly 28,000,000 out of work. Still a horrendous number, and it sounds a lot worse than "ten percent."