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Yet today’s double-digit jobless rate considerably understates the recession’s toll on workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles a broader measure of unemployment and underemployment. It includes unemployed workers looking for jobs and jobless workers too discouraged to look for work and part-time workers who want full-time employment.

That measure reached 17.5 percent in October, likely another record, analysts say.

The dismal jobless figures would be even worse if the labor force weren’t shrinking, analysts say.

The labor force, which includes employed workers and jobless who have looked for work during the previous four weeks, tends to grow about 1.2 percent per year along with population growth, which includes immigration.

Even in the early 1980s recession, the labor force grew at a healthy clip.

During the past year, however, the labor force fell 0.6 percent, or by more than 900,000 - the first decline since 1962.

“If the labor force was growing at a normal 1.2 percent annual rate, the unemployment rate would now be over 12 percent,” Mr. McMillion of MBG Information Services said. The decline is rooted partly in the rise in long-term unemployment, he said.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, more than a third of today’s 15.7 million unemployed Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. That’s a postwar record, and it will be rising for some time, economists warn.

Economists expect the labor market to remain weak for years to come. Moody’s projects the unemployment rate will average 10.6 percent during next year’s fourth quarter. Wells Fargo is forecasting a 10.8 percent jobless rate during that period.

The Federal Reserve doesn’t expect unemployment to fall below 8.4 percent in the next two years. That’s a different story from the 1980s, when the jobless rate had fallen from 10.8 percent in November 1982 to 7.2 percent two years later, helping President Reagan capture 49 states in his re-election campaign.

The story is not lost on some of today’s elected representatives.

On the eve of the White House jobs summit, some of Mr. Obama’s top advisers were signaling that the get-together could provide a boost to efforts by congressional Democrats to provide more federal aid to spur employers to begin hiring.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said this week that lawmakers are looking at a number of steps to ease the plight of those out of work and to create jobs, including expanded unemployment aid and a 1930s-style public works program.

But Republicans have roundly criticized what they call a “second stimulus” package, on top of the unprecedented $787 billion recovery bill that Mr. Obama pushed through Congress a month after taking office - with little GOP backing.

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