Long-Term Unemployment Doubled 2007–2013


Lose your job in most states and you may see as much as 26 weeks of basic unemployment insurance. After that, the future is uncertain. On Jan. 1, federal benefits expired for America’s 1.3 million unemployed. 

Lawmakers looking to end the emergency unemployment support brought about by the Great Recession point to an economy in recovery. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate sank to 6.7 percent in December 2013. 

However, for many Americans still struggling to find employment, the sting of recession still lingers.

40 Percent

Population analysis from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire shows that while the unemployment rate is falling, the number of long-term unemployed people has increased dramatically in the last six years. Almost 40 percent of unemployed Americans are experiencing long-term unemployment. That is defined as being out of work and actively looking for work for 27 weeks or more.

According to the monthly report released Jan. 10 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 3.9 million, showed little change; these individuals accounted for 37.7 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has declined by 894,000 over the year.” 

The BLS does not explain what happened to those 894,000 people. The number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate is deceptive, because people who drop out of the workforce altogether do not count as unemployed. There are likely more people who want to work but have not found work than are included in the 894,000. Some, but not all of them, will have found full-time work.

Young May Need Less Support

By 2013, more than twice as many Americans have been unemployed for more than six months but actively seeking work, compared to 2007. 

The report, “The Long-Term Unemployed in the Wake of the Great Recession,” does not address whether Congress should extend federal unemployment benefits. Instead, the goal is to shed light on who is struggling to help inform a better safety net. 

“Young workers may need less support in their twenties than older workers in their fifties when they are out of work, whose prospects of returning to a well-paying late-career job are dim at a time when retirement savings should be at its peak,” states the report.

Researchers found that long-term unemployed people are much more likely to live in urban areas than short-term unemployed people. They are also older, more racially and ethnically diverse, better educated, and more likely to be married with children.

Gender Gaps Shrinks

The report also notes a diminishing gender gap among long-term unemployed—the number of long-term unemployed women is up 10 percent from 2007.

Hispanics, however, were found to be less affected by long-term unemployment. The report suggests that observing how certain groups manage to rejoin the workforce could inform job-training programs.



  • Michael678

    *Capitalism* requires that there be not just unemployment but that the unemployed be unhappy. I say so for three reasons:

    1. Capitalism requires an excess supply of labor in order to bid down
    wage growth and industrial militancy. When Norman Lamont said
    unemployment was a “price well worth paying” to get wage inflation down,
    he was just blurting out the truth seen by Kalecki 50 years earlier –
    that “unemployment is an integral part of the ‘normal’ capitalist
    system.”

    2. Capitalism needs the unemployed to look for work – to be an effective
    supply of labor. This requires that they be “incentivized” to seek jobs
    by meager unemployment benefits and by being stigmatized. In other
    words, the unemployed must be made unhappy.

    3. Blaming the unemployed for their plight serves a two-fold function in
    legitimating capitalism. It distracts attention from the fact that
    unemployment is caused by structural failings in capitalism, sometimes
    magnified by policy error. And in promoting the cognitive bias which
    says that individuals are the makers of their own fate, it invites the
    inference that, just as the poor deserve their poverty, so the rich
    deserve their wealth.


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