Long-Term Unemployment Gets Attention

In his 2014 State of the Union speech, Pres. Obama called out unemployment as a continuing problem and called on the private sector to help in giving those considered “long-term unemployed” a chance. “I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families,” said Obama. A few days later, the White House announced that about 300 businesses, including 20 members of the Fortune 50 and big names like Walmart, Apple, General Motors and Ford, had signed on to revise their hiring practices to avoid discriminating against applicants who had been out of work for a significant amount of time.

In November 2013, over 4 million of the unemployed were considered “long-term unemployed”—someone who has been unemployed for more than 27 weeks. Over 37 percent of the unemployed fall into this long-term category, which remains relatively close to the record high of 45.3 percent hit in March of 2011. Before the recession began in December 2007, the long-term unemployment rate was 17.4 percent. Although this statistic is still well above historical norms, it is trending down – there are nearly 2.1 million fewer long-term unemployed than there were during the post-recession peak of 6.2 million people.

According to analysis by David Cooper at the Economic Policy Institute, there were 28 states in 2013 where more than a third of the unemployed have been jobless for six months or more. New Jersey has the highest percentage of long-term unemployed (46.6 percent), followed by Florida (46.2 percent) and Rhode Island (44.6 percent). In contrast, South Dakota (17.2 percent), North Dakota (19.6 percent) and Iowa (21.0 percent) had the lowest rates of long-term unemployment.

Long-term share of the unemployed, by state, 2013


Click here to use EPI's interactive map: EPI: Long-term share of the unemployed, by state, 2013