Do you know how unemployment is measured? It's measured by calculating the number of people unemployed over the number able to do work, AKA labor force.
Now. If you have a huge national financial setback, such as a Wall-Street-caused bubble bursting? You counter some of the effects by extending the number of people able to recieve unemployment benefits and for a longer period of time, that means the actual percentage of people on Unemployment will be higher than usual. The actual length of Unemployment benefits strongly influences the percentage. Give people a shorter fuse to a threat of being homeless, and they'll settle for something less than they feel they are worth, a lot sooner than they previously had to do it.
So don't panic. The percentage should go down again soon. The number of pink slips and firings are calming down. Once this happens for a while, unemployment benefits and eligibility should return to what they used to be, and the actual percentage of people will go back to what they used to be.