If unemployment were actually at around 9 percent, that would mean that 91 percent of people had jobs. It certainly doesn't seem like nine out of 10 people have jobs these days, and that is because they don't. The unemployment rate that the government calculates includes only those without jobs who have actively searched for a job in the previous four weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are many arguments as to why the unemployment rate is calculated this way. One is that those who haven't been looking for a job in over four weeks have some other method of income, or have simply given up looking, and that these people should not be counted as unemployed since that hurts the morale of the country. The more believable argument is that because of that morale, the government wishes to use whichever method of calculating unemployment that looks best. Simply because this method of calculating unemployment is widely used, does not mean that it is the right way to do it.
The "true unemployment rate" is very simple to find. The total number of people who are not working, subtracted from the total number of people able to work (called the labor force) will result in the number of people actually unemployed. While it is true that some of these people may have other incomes, is is highly likely that those people only constitute a small percent of the people without jobs. Not counting people because they have given up and not looked for work in the past four weeks also doesn't make sense, since many of these people would work if jobs were available. The simple fact is that the jobs are not available. The Population Reference Bureau calculated the labor force to be just over 157 million people in 2010. It is important to note that this number does not include people over the retirement age or disabled people, even if they do have jobs. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 131 million jobs in the US. These numbers alone mean that there are 26 million people in the labor force without jobs. This means that the actual unemployment rate, which is people in the labor force without jobs divided by people in the labor force, is over 16 percent. However, the harsh truth about unemployment does not end there.
A person is deemed employed if they work any amount of hours for pay. That means that the people who work part time at more than one job account for two of those 131 million available jobs, making even less of those jobs available, and pushing the "actual" unemployment rate even higher than what is estimated here. This number also does not account for people over the age of 65, or disabled people, who have jobs. Since many of these people do in fact have jobs, again that means that the "actual" unemployment rate is even higher than what is estimated here.
All of this does not even address that regardless of how you factor the unemployment rate, there are less than 140 million jobs in the US, but more than 310 million people.