Long-Term Unemployment on the Rise: Why We Should Be Worried

on February 20 2012 3:57 PM
  • Where are the long-term unemployed?
    In the fourth quarter of 2011, the Pacific division had the highest long-term unemployment rate as a percentage of its labor force. Source: Pew Pew
  • Historical long-term unemployment
    Percent of total unemployed who were out of work for 52 weeks or more is rising. Source: Pew Pew
  • How long have the unemployed been jobless?
    In 2011, there were more workers who had been unemployed for a year or longer (2.8 percent of the labor force) than workers who had just been laid off (1.7 percent). Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the “Less than 5 Weeks” designation to indicate people who have just been laid off. Source: Pew The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Who are the long-term unemployed?
    Long-term unemployment as a percentage of the total unemployed. Source: Pew Pew
  • The Evolution of the Jobs Gap
    The chart shows how the jobs gap has evolved since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, and how long it will take to close under different assumptions for job growth. The solid line shows the net number of jobs lost since the Great Recession began. The broken lines track how long it will take to close the jobs gap under alternative assumptions about the rate of job creation going forward. If the economy adds about 208,000 jobs per month, which was the average monthly rate for the best year of job creation in the 2000s, then it will take until March 2024—over 12 years—to close the jobs gap. Given a more optimistic rate of 321,000 jobs per month, which was the average monthly rate for the best year of job creation in the 1990s, the economy will reach pre-recession employment levels by February 2017—not for another five years. Source: The Hamilton Project The Hamilton Project
  • Percent of unemployed out of work for more than six months
    While the nation as a whole was hit hard by the Great Recession, unemployment has not been evenly distributed among the states. The map shows the share of people who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for at least six months -- the maximum length of eligibility for unemployment benefits. Source: The Hamilton Project The Hamilton Project
  • Who are the unemployed (Q4 2011)?
    During the fourth quarter of 2011, workers under age 25 represented a larger proportion of the unemployed than of the total labor force. When considering education levels, workers with a bachelor’s or advanced degree made up 31 percent of the total labor force, but represented only 15 percent of the unemployed during the fourth quarter of 2011. White workers were the majority of the labor force and the unemployed, but black workers made up a disproportionate share of the unemployed, given their representation in the labor force, during the fourth quarter of 2011. Source: Pew Pew
  • Permanent and temporary layoffs as a percentage of the total unemployed
    The Great Recession and its aftermath saw a significant increase in the percentage of layoffs that were permanent as opposed to temporary. Source: Pew Pew
  • Chance of finding a Job Pre- and Post-Recession
    It has always been harder to find a job the longer you are unemployed. But the situation facing American workers today goes well beyond historical norms. Between 2004 and 2007, when the typical person lost his job, he or she could expect to be reemployed within two months. Today, a typical unemployed American has been out of work for five months. In today's economy, America's unemployed workers are roughly 7 percentage points less likely to find work each month during the first year of unemployment than they were prior to the recession. Source: The Hamilton Project The Hamilton Project
  • Long-term unemployed, age 16-64, selected years
    There are two measures of long-term unemployment. 1. The share of all unemployed who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks. By this definition, long-term unemployment increased from 17.5 percent of the unemployed in 2007, to 31.3 percent in 2009, when the economy reached a trough, and continued to rise, to 43.0 percent, in the first full calendar year of the recovery in 2010. 2. The long-term unemployed is described as a share of the labor force. By the second definition, long-term unemployment was just 0.8 percent of the labor force in 2007, before rising to 2.9 percent in 2009, and then to 4.2 percent in 2010. Both measures show similar trends. Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research Center for Economic and Policy
  • Unemployed, by education level, 2010
    Workers with less than a high school degree are almost four times as likely to be unemployed than workers with a college degree are. Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research Center for Economic and Policy
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From peak to trough, the United States lost almost 9 million jobs in the most recent economic downturn. 

Although recent employment reports have provided some hope for job-seekers, as the unemployment rate continued to edge down and expansions in employer payrolls continued to gather steam, the long-term unemployment situation is still dire. 

The depth and length of the recession pushed the long-term unemployment rate to over 40 percent of the jobless throughout 2010 and 2011. By comparison, the previous peak -- which lasted only one month (June 1983) -- was just 26 percent.

We've compiled some charts from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Hamilton Project and the Center for Economic and Policy Research to show the depressing reality.

Click to view the charts.

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