Since 1948, the unemployment rate in the United States of America has only ascended to 10% twice. The first was at the end of 1982. The second the fall of 2009.
Period 1: December 1982 to December 1988
Peak unemployment during the first period, beginning in December 1982, was 10.8%. Nineteen months later, June 1984, the unemployment rate stood at 7.2%. After this fairly rapid descent, the unemployment rate was not consistently below 7% for an additional two and a half years as it stalled. By the end of 1986, however, it once again began to steadily decline.
Period 2: October 2009 to March 2013 and Beyond
More recently, peak unemployment occurred during October 2009, when it stood at 10.0%. For over a year there was not much progress in the decline in the unemployment rate as it, for all but one month, was greater than 9.5%. Finally, beginning in December 2010 it began to fall. The rate has generally declined since then, though at a relatively leisurely pace.
Data Source: U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics