The federal government defines “long-term unemployment” as a jobless period of six months or longer. In March 2010, over 44 percent of unemployed Americans met or exceeded that standard—the highest rate since World War II. In contrast, during the severe recession of the early 1980s, the percentage of workers unemployed for six months or longer peaked at 26 percent in 1983.
The media have reported the historically high six-month unemployment figure, but a new study by the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative goes further by calculating the percentage of people who have been unemployed for a year or more. This analysis further illuminates the extent of the country’s long-term unemployment problem and its impact on the nation’s fiscal condition.