unemploymentOkay, forget the official figure of 7.2 percent that the media quote for U.S. unemployment.

As the accompanying graphic from Shadow Stats shows, what the media report is called the U3 unemployment rate–the officially unemployed shown on the bottom red line. When you add in “discouraged” and “marginally attached” workers, you get the middle line on the graph, which is trending toward 14 percent. Throw in areas that the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t even consider–unemployed farm workers, the idle self-employed, and home workers–and you’re up to 18 percent on the top blue line.

That’s how I got my rather startling title for this post.

All told, 48 percent of U.S. companies downsized in 2008, and a whopping 60 percent are planning reductions in 2009, according to a Society of Human Resource Management survey.

Economists predict a total of 1.5 million to 2 million or more jobs will vanish in 2009, and the “official” unemployment rate could hit 9 to 10 percent, underscoring the challenges that new U.S. President Barack Obama will face and the tough road ahead for job seekers.