Employee Advocacy Group Concerned About Long-term Unemployment

By Staff Report

Jun. 3, 2005

Though the economy is expanding, one in five unemployed people in the United States have been out of work for six months or more, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The institute, which advocates particularly on behalf of low- and middle-income employees, says that “never before has the overall unemployment rate been this low while so many of the jobless have been out of work for such long periods of time.”

The report on the long-term unemployed was released jointly with the National Employment Law Project.

The researchers say this isn’t the first time that long-term unemployment–the share of the unemployed who have been out of work for 27 or more weeks–has continued at high rates even after a recession ends.

Following the 1990-91 recession, for example, the report finds that “as the unemployment rate fell from 7.8 percent to 5.8 percent, long-term joblessness remained above 20 percent for 22 of those 29 months.” This time around, however, the percentage of the unemployed who have been jobless long term has reached “an unprecedented streak of 31 consecutive months and counting.”

Women represent a larger share of the long-term unemployed than they have in the past. This is because the service sector, where female employment is concentrated, used to be “less sensitive to economic cycles,” according to the Economic Policy Institute study. Now, with the service sector more vulnerable, working women are less protected, says the Washington-based organization.

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