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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Trend in Long-Term Unemployment and Characteristics of Workers Unemployed for More than 99 Weeks

Gerald Mayer
Analyst in Labor Policy

One of the characteristics of the recession that began in the United States in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009 was the unprecedented rise in long-term unemployment. The longterm unemployed are usually defined as workers who have been unemployed for more than six months. But, many workers have been looking for work for more than a year, or for more than 99 weeks. Workers who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks are defined here as the “very long-term unemployed.” They are sometimes called “99ers.”

Authorization for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) is scheduled to expire on January 3, 2012. Legislation has been introduced to expand and extend the program. On September 8, 2011, President Obama proposed an extension of the program. Issues for Congress include whether to authorize the EUC08 program beyond January 3, 2012, and whether to provide the very long-term unemployed with more than 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

As the national unemployment rate rose during and after the recent recession, so did long-term unemployment rates (i.e., the number of long-term unemployed divided by the size of the labor force). From December 2007 to June 2011, the unemployment rate for persons unemployed for more than 99 weeks rose from 0.1% to 1.3%. As of June 2011, there were an estimated 2.0 million very long-term unemployed. This estimate, which is from the Current Population Survey (CPS), is not a count of the number of workers who have exhausted all unemployment benefits.

An analysis of differences in the share of the unemployed who are very long-term unemployed (i.e., the number of long-term unemployed divided by the number of unemployed) shows that from July 2010 to June 2011, 

  • unemployed men were more likely than unemployed women to be out of work for more than 99 weeks (12.3% compared to 10.8%); 
  • older workers were more likely than younger workers to be unemployed for more than 99 weeks. While 8.1% of unemployed workers under the age of 35 had been looking for work for more than 99 weeks, twice the percentage (16.3%) of workers ages 45 and over had been out of work for more than 99 weeks. 
  • unemployed workers with a high school degree were as likely as workers with a Bachelor’s degree to have been out of work for more than 99 weeks; 
  • married unemployed workers were more likely than unemployed workers who have never been married to be out of work for more than 99 weeks (12.8% and 9.8%, respectively); and 
  • unemployed black workers were more likely than unemployed white workers to have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks (9.9% and 7.3%, respectively); on the other hand, unemployed non-Hispanic workers were more likely than unemployed Hispanic workers to have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks (8.0% and 7.0%, respectively). 
The number of very long-term unemployed may or may not continue to rise. On the one hand, the number of monthly layoffs has fallen since the official end of the 2007-2009 recession. On the other hand, both the number of jobs and of job openings have increased. But, the numbers have not returned to their pre-recession levels. In addition, as employers hire new workers, those who have been unemployed the longest may be among the last to be hired.

Date of Report: September
12, 2011
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: R415
Price: $29.95

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