A Year or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment

Original Report: April 2010

A Year or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment


The challenge of long-term unemployment has persisted over the last year, even as the overall unemployment rate has improved somewhat.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.

Long-Term Unemployment, Five Ways to Look at It [PDF] is a series of charts illustrates different dimensions of the U.S. unemployment challenge, such as who make up the long-term unemployed population, where the long-term unemployed are located, and whether workers are being laid off permanently or temporarily.