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Long-term unemployment plagues all ages, report says

January 27, 2011 |  1:09 pm

Age group chart
This economic downturn has been characterized by worse long-term unemployment than any other since the government began keeping records in 1948. But even as the economy begins to recover, long-term unemployment continues to plague millions of Americans, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Fiscal Analysis Initiative.

About 30% of those out of work in December 2010 had been without a job for a year or more, Pew said. That's more than 4.2 million people -- roughly the population of Kentucky. Although long-term unemployment affects all age groups, as the above chart shows, more older workers are having trouble getting back to work.

About 40% of all unemployed adults ages 55 to 64 have been out of work for a year or more. Contrast that with people ages 20 to 24 -- only 21% of them have been out of work for a year or more. The majority of the younger age group has been out of work for less than 26 weeks, Pew said.

Education doesn't necessarily help either. In December 2010, 191,000 people with an advanced degree had been out of work for a year or more -- 34% of all the unemployed with advanced degrees. Of course, 1.3 million people with a high school diploma had been out of work for a year or more.

The long-term unemployed are costly to the government. Federal spending on unemployment benefits will reach $129 billion in 2011. About $63 billion of that is to pay for benefits longer than the 26 weeks usually available to people.

That $129 billion is still $30 billion less than what was spent in 2010. That's because a $25 weekly supplemental benefit has expired and because the government expects fewer people to need benefits as the recovery continues.

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-- Alana Semuels

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