Some 23 percent of unemployed Americans have been jobless for a year or more — the highest rate since World War II, a new report from the Pew Economic Policy Group finds.
The report, A Year or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment (22 pages, PDF), found that the trend cuts across nearly every industry, occupation, age group, and educational background. Although people who are 55 or older account for a relatively small number of the overall unemployed population, once these workers become unemployed nearly 30 percent remain jobless for at least a year — the highest rate of any age group. The report also found that 21 percent of unemployed workers with at least a bachelor's degree have been out of work a year or longer, compared to 27 percent with a high school diploma and 23 percent with less than a high school degree.
The existence of a large pool of Americans — 3.4 million — out of work for more than a year has also exacerbated the growing federal budget deficit. Over the past five years, federal spending on unemployment insurance has increased five-fold, from $33 billion in fiscal year 2005 to an estimated $168 billion in fiscal year 2010, with half of that going toward unemployment benefits beyond the traditional twenty-six weeks.
"The number of Americans who have been out of work for a year or longer is roughly equal to the population of Connecticut," said Ingrid Schroeder, project director of the recently launched Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative, which produced the report. "Their unemployment has a significant impact on their families, their communities, and our government's bottom line."