US Unemployment Rate is only 8.5 Percent?

That's the government version. Headlines read UE falls to lowest level in three years! But wait. How can this be? March 2009 BLS Employment Situation News Release:
"...the unemployment rate rose from 8.1 to 8.5 percent, the Bureau of Labor
Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today."

Okay, great. UE rate is the lowest in nearly three years. But wait.
Covered employment, those eligible to file for unemployment as of March 2009: 133,886,830
                                                                                                Dec.   2011: 126,188,733
Click weekly claims data for historic levels:

Over the last 34 months there are 7,698,097 less workers eligible to file for unemployment benefits. Estimates range from 100,000 to 150,000 monthly growth in the working age population. 100,000 -150,000 new jobs needed monthly just to keep up with the growth in the work force, to break even. The 34 months in between the same reported 8.5% U-3 has seen the working age population increase by at least 3,400,000 yet the number of those eligible to file for unemployment has collapsed by 7,698,097. Simple math tells you that 3,400,000 to 5,100,00 new workers, people actually employed, needed to be created over that time, using the same metrics, to maintain the 8.5% U-3 rate yet there are actually 7,698,097 less employed people.

Using the government's own figures, the real unemployment rate from March 2009 rate of 8.5% to todays release date is actually closer to 17%, actually double the reported rate. Do the math.

A quick look at Food Stamp (SNAP) participants over the same time frame:
March 2009   32,948,433
Oct,    2011   46,224,722 (Latest data available)