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What Is a High Unemployment Rate?

Broadly speaking, a high unemployment rate is anything more than 10 percent, although anything more than 5 percent might be considered high in developed nations. In the United States, a normal unemployment rate is 6 to 7 percent, with anything higher than that considered a high unemployment rate. Unemployment in the U.S. jumped from about 6 percent to more than 10 percent between 2008 and 2010.

More facts about unemployment:

  • There are many methods of measuring a country's unemployment rate, and the number can change drastically depending on who is doing the measuring. For instance, the basic standard for an unemployment rate is the number of working-age people who don't have jobs but have looked for work in the four weeks leading up to the calculation. Considering the people who are seasonally employed or unemployed, those who are underemployed or those who are not looking for work can lead to a dramatically different number.

  • The highest unemployment rate in U.S. history was during the Great Depression, when about 25 percent of Americans were unemployed. Compared with other countries, this highest rate is relatively low; in 2009, Zimbabwe had an unemployment rate of 95 percent. Other countries with extremely high unemployment rates include Nauru, with a 90 percent unemployment rate; Liberia, with a 85 percent unemployment rate; and Burkina Faso, with a 77 percent unemployment rate.

  • Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. in 2011, with about 13.4 percent of working-age Nevadans unemployed.
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