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Economy & Business

Long-term unemployment continues to take costly toll, according to report

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 2, 2012 - While the nation’s overall unemployment rate has been showing improvement, a new report from the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative indicates little change for the long-term unemployed.

Here is a sampling of the statistics:

  • About 30 percent of the nearly 13.3 million Americans who were unemployed during the first quarter of 2012 had been jobless for a year or more. That number -- about 3.9 million Americans -- is slightly higher than the population of Oregon, according to Pew analysts who studied data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • On the other hand, the rate for long-term joblessness has nudged downward. It was at its highest -- 31.8 percent -- in the third quarter of 2011.
  • Some perspective: The long-term unemployment rate was 9.5 percent during the first quarter of 2008, the start of the Great Recession. That was about one-third the current rate.
  • The cost of unemployment compensation is projected at $99 billion for fiscal year 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office. About half that amount will be spent on emergency and extended benefits. The projection is down from the $159 billion spent in 2010 but three times pre-recession levels.

The full report titled “Addendum -- A Year or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment” is available on the website of Pew Charitable Trusts.

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