In the recession of the early 1990s and its aftermath, the highest rate of unemployment was 7.8 percent. In the recession of the early 2000s and its aftermath, the unemployment rate never got above 6.3 percent.
This time has been harsher. In late 2009, shortly after the recession officially ended, the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent. For two years after that, it stayed above 9 percent.
At the end of the day, the Dow was up 81.09 points to 13155.13. The S&P 500, where Apple's weight is 4 percent, was up but by a smaller proportion, rising 4.13 to 1418.07. The Nasdaq composite index, where Apple accounts for a hefty 12 percent, fell 11.23 to 2978.04.
Apple fell $13.99 to $533.25, or 2.6 percent. That's part of a longer trend: Apple's stock has plunged nearly 24 percent since the iPhone 5 went on sale Sept. 21. Investors are wondering how long the company can keep the momentum going with its popular iPhone and iPad devices.
Outside of Apple, there's another significant cloud hanging over the market. Congress and the White House are trying to hammer out an agreement on government spending and tax rates before Jan. 1. If they don't, lower government spending and higher taxes will kick in, a situation that's been nicknamed the "fiscal cliff."
The fiscal cliff is already taking a toll on people's confidence and making them nervous about spending, said Bernie Williams, vice president of discretionary money management at USAA Investments in San Antonio, Texas. He pointed to recent announcements from retailers such as Target and Kohl's, both of which reported lower November sales, even though analysts had expected increases.
"There are more things on the plate to worry about than normal," Williams said. "The consumer is weak, their confidence is being hit by the fiscal cliff, and then more importantly, you look ahead to next year and all the taxes are (likely) rising. ... If you're a paycheck-to-paycheck person, that's going to hurt."
Traders have been indecisive as well. In the 22 trading days since the presidential election, the Dow has been up 11 and down 11.
AIG, the bailed-out insurance company, rose more than 2 percent, up 87 cents to $34.13. A group of Chinese companies is in talks to buy AIG's aircraft leasing unit, which could help AIG raise cash to pay off more of its government loans.The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.63 percent from 1.59 percent late Thursday, a sign that investors were putting more money in stocks.