During the the socialist paradise of the 70s, governments aimed at a full employment Economy. We had galloping inflation (20%..), dead bodies uncollected in the street, the IMF in, and the three day week. We were became the lauging stock of the world
This was, in part, because a full employment policy( objective claimed by no-one now ) is inevitably inflationary inefficient and unproductive. By the end of the 70s , even as we slid into third world status, unemployment was only at 1,100,000.( W of Discontent ).
The correction was a focus on inflation while a three fold increase in unemloyment to about 3,000,000 in 82 was tolerated .This was 12.5% of the working population. During this period( up to now ) patterns of work changed enormously ,the numbers in the working population increased as women flooded into the work place and the two income family became the norm. You have to bear this in kind and discount for the higher numerical figures
to give you some idea in the very height of the over blown boom numerical unemployment was hovering around 1,000,000 where it remained during what we now know to be artificially clement conditions , about 6%.
Currently it is between 7.5% and 8%
So if you look at the comparison
70s to 80s recession moved the pattern from 3%( usually taken to be full employment ) to a high of 12.5%.
Thus far a norm of 6% ish has moved to 7.75% at the end of 2010
. Of course there are special features now , youth unemployment is taking the brunt of the increase and some regions are suiffering by by comparison with other recessions ( not with either booms or normal times) unemployment is very mild indeed.
(ONS plus well known historical data )
With no sign of any supply side restructuring my suspicion is that the coalitions aim , to make Thatcher`s omlette with breaking eggs, is a dangerous dream.
( A comment I made elsewhere )