Turmoil in housing, credit and financial markets plunged the U.S. economy into a recession that has taken a heavy toll on the labor market. The weakness that began during the second half of 2007 gravely worsened during a period of extreme financial stress in 2008, and the labor market has yet to recover. To put the recession's labor-market impact into perspective, we compare the past two years to previous downturns, including the Great Depression. We also examine the data commonly used to assess labor market conditions. While unemployment rates and nonfarm payroll losses are widely reported, a firm grasp of what they measure is critical to understanding what they tell us about the current state of the labor market.