The Inn of Rosslyn, which is permanently closed due to pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic, on February 5, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
Liu Jie / Xinhua via Getty Images
In total, those long-term unemployed accounted for 24% of the total 9.9 million unemployed workers last month, according to the bureau. (The data do not have seasonal adjustments).
“I think that number is quite impressive, that almost a quarter of unemployed workers have been unemployed for more than a year,” said Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the Institute for Economic Policy and former chief economist for the 2014 Department of Labor. to 2017..
“It really shows that even when the economy is recovering, there are a lot of the same people who have been unemployed throughout this whole damn thing,” he added.
The statistics offer the first hint of unemployment a year after officials began issuing lockdown orders to contain the coronavirus and millions of Americans began filing for unemployment benefits.
And that number is likely an undercount, as the department doesn’t consider certain workers, such as those who left the workforce entirely due to pandemic health risks or childcare duties. And the ratio may rise next month, as current figures only offer a snapshot to the middle of last month, which doesn’t quite line up with the flood of jobless claims towards the end of March and April 2020.
The bureau does not break down these long-term unemployment figures by industry.
But workers in this group are likely overrepresented in the worst-hit industries, such as leisure and hospitality, Shierholz said. More than 3 million jobs in that sector have yet to return, representing more than a third of the total.
Long-term unemployment has risen steadily throughout the health crisis and is near the peak of the Great Recession.
Economists consider workers to be long-term unemployed after at least six months out of work.
It is an especially dangerous period for households from a financial perspective. Finding a new job becomes more difficult, workers’ long-term income potential suffers, and the chances of losing a job if they find one in the future increase.
The federal government has stepped in to offer income support by extending and increasing weekly unemployment benefits. The $ 1.9 billion American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed last month, extends aid through Labor Day and offers a $ 300 weekly supplement to state benefits.
However, not all workers qualify for assistance, despite the broader eligibility criteria during the pandemic.
More than 4 million Americans were unemployed for six months or more in March, or 43.4% of all unemployed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday.
That’s about on par with the record turnout of 45.5% achieved after the Great Recession.
The proportion is growing even as the US unemployment rate fell to 6% in March. The United States gained 916,000 jobs, the most since the summer.
In recessions, unemployment and long-term unemployment generally rise and fall together, Shierholz said.
“That is not what is happening here,” he said. “Right now, they are going in a totally opposite direction: unemployment is going down and long-term unemployment is going up.”
The number of Americans out of work for at least a year is still roughly half the peak reached after the Great Recession.
As of April 2010, more than 4.6 million people had been out of work for at least 52 weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It took another 20 months for that number to drop below the 4 million mark.
However, long-term unemployment may not persist to the same extent this time, given the rate of vaccination and the trend of the economic rebound.