There is a large difference between the reported unemployment rate and the actual one.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates six different unemployment figures (U-1 through U-6). The government only reports the official (U-3) unemployment figure.
The U-3, or official, unemployment figure includes people without jobs and have been actively looking for work in the past four weeks.
U-6 includes U-3 people + discouraged workers (workers who have stopped looking because they believe there is no work) + marginally attached workers (workers who are able to work and would like to work but have not looked recently) + underemployed workers (part-timers who want to work full-time).
SGS - shadow government statistics. Includes U-6 + long term discouraged workers (who were defined out of existence in 1994). This measurement is how the government used to calculate unemployment before it was done away with in 1994.
The latest seasonally-adjusted unemployment figures (Dec 2011):
As one can see, there is a big disparity between the official unemployment figure and the real unemployment figures.
Shadow Government Statistics - a great insight to government economic reporting