Here's a nice visual of the US unemployment rate from 1950 to present.  You can see that it peaked at almost 11% in 1980.  It was extremely low in 1950s, getting under the 3% level.  Recently,  you can see that the unemployment rate has been on the rise, currently sitting over 6%.  There's talk that this recession could take the rate up to 9%, possibly 10% before reversing course.