The Calafia Beach Pundit (Scott Grannis) posted this chart at Seeking Alpha on October 2, 2009 (http://seekingalpha.com/article/164517-workforce-disruption-weekly-claims-update?source=email). It shows weekly unemployment claims as a percentage of the workforce. At the end of the third quater of 2009, the figure was at its lowest level for the year.
If you compare the severity of the recession that began in December 2007 to others based on this metric, the unemployment claims situation is better now than in the recessions of mid 1970s and early 1980s. Scott Grannis believes that as of October 2009, the United States of America is about three months into a recovery with a workforce disruption metric that has fallen to 0.42%. He says that " . . . It took almost one year of recovery for that same metric to drop to this level following the '81-'82 recession, and almost 18 months of recovery following the '74-'75 recession."