Economy Now

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Long-term unemployed still face dim job prospects

January 8, 2014: 10:05 AM ET

Friday morning could bring more good news about the economy when the Labor Department releases its latest monthly jobs report.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney predict the report will show 193,000 jobs were added in December, consistent with a story of solid hiring in the last four months of 2013. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 7% as some workers rejoin the labor force.

And on Wednesday, payroll processor ADP (ADP) announced that 238,000 jobs were added to the private sector last month. That was more than expected and an increase from November.

In short, economists seem convinced that the jobs recovery has gained momentum, but there's still a major problem. Employers are favoring the newly unemployed, and leaving behind the Americans who have been out of work for longer periods of time.

Take a look at the "typical" unemployed person (if there is such a thing). According to the latest data, it takes this person 17 weeks -- or about 4 months -- to either find a job, or stop looking for one. That's the median duration of unemployment, and it's more than double what it was before the recession began.

It takes about 4 months to either find a job or give up entirely...

chart-weeks-unemployed

But what about those workers who take much longer than the median?

About 37% of the unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more (that's about 7 months!), and their job prospects look increasingly dim.

According to calculations from the Council of Economic Advisers, a person who has been unemployed for five weeks or less, has a 31% chance of getting a job. Once they've been unemployed between 27 and 52 weeks though, those odds drop to 12%.

What happens once you're unemployed for more than a year? The odds drop to just 9%.

The odds of getting a job decline as time goes on...

chart-odds-job3

There are 4 million Americans in this unfortunate situation. They've already been unemployed for 27 weeks, and the odds of getting a job just keep dropping. Who are they?

About 34% of them are men considered to be in the prime working ages of 25 to 54, and another 29% are women of that age.

About 18% are young workers under age 25, and 15% are workers on the cusp of the traditional retirement age, between 55 to 64 years old.

The remaining 4% are people who are 65 years or older, but would still like to work.

"I just want everybody to understand – this is not an abstraction.  These are not statistics," President Obama said Tuesday, as he pushed for Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits. "These are your neighbors, your friends, your family members.  It could at some point be any of us."

Who are the long-term unemployed?

chart-long-term-unemployed2

Have you been unemployed for six months or more? Tell us about it.

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