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.
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.
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%.
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."
The unemployment rate of immigrants fell to 8.1% in 2012, the same as the jobless level for people born in America. This marks the first time in several years that immigrants have not had a higher jobless rate.
As Congress debates immigration reform, the work experiences of those born outside this country grow in importance.
Still, the overall unemployment rate of immigrants masks differences between the races. Foreign-born whites, for instance, have MORETami Luhby - May 24, 2013 7:42 AM ET
By Mark Thompson
It's been three years since Greece was granted 110 billion euros in the first of two bailouts by its EU partners and the International Monetary Fund. Harsh austerity measures have driven the economy into the ground since then. Unemployment has soared. More than 6 in 10 young workers are out of a job.
But there may be light at the end of the tunnel. After six years of recession, MOREMay 10, 2013 9:02 AM ET
The number of job openings rose in February to 3.9 million, according to the Labor Department's JOLTS report released Tuesday. This is good news if it translates into new hiring in the next few months.
About 12 million Americans were still unemployed in February, which means for every job opening, there are roughly 3.1 unemployed workers.
By this metric, you can see that the job market has improved substantially since 2009, when MOREAnnalyn Kurtz - Apr 9, 2013 2:59 PM ET
Lots of people laid off during the recession are landing new jobs ... but they are making a whole lot less.
Some 52% of unemployed people surveyed recently by Rutgers University found new positions within six months of losing their jobs.
But roughly an equal share of the unemployed who landed new jobs had to settle for pay cuts, according to the report by Rutgers' Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.
Here are the MORETami Luhby - Feb 11, 2013 8:10 AM ET
Though blacks' job prospects have improved from the depths of the Great Recession, they still suffer from disproportionately high unemployment.
Pegged to Black History Month, the U.S. Congress' Joint Economic Committee put out a stats sheet highlighting the gap. It takes longer, on average, for black workers for find a job, and even having a college degree doesn't help as much as it does for other job-seeking populations. The black unemployment rate MORETami Luhby - Feb 6, 2013 11:14 AM ET
Forget the "mancession" or the "he-covery." Men suffered the biggest job losses in the financial crisis, and also gained the most post-recession jobs.
But now, men and women have equal footing in the recovery.
As of November, both genders have gained back half the jobs they lost in the financial crisis, according to Labor Department data.
The recession hit male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing, far harder than female-dominated industries like health care MOREAnnalyn Kurtz - Dec 9, 2012 2:27 PM ET
Are Americans feeling more miserable than they were four years ago? According to the so-called "misery index," they're not -- a fact that boosts President Obama's chances of winning re-election.
The misery index combines the unemployment rate and the annual inflation rate and has accurately predicted the outcome of nine of the last 12 presidential elections, according to economists at Deutsche Bank.
When it rises, it's considered a sign of a weaker MOREAnnalyn Kurtz - Oct 17, 2012 12:08 PM ET
Mitt Romney told our friends at TIME on Wednesday that he will get the unemployment rate to 6% by the end of his first term. (CNNMoney and TIME are both owned by Time Warner.)
"Over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we'd get the unemployment rate down to 6%, and perhaps a little lower," Romney said. "It depends in part upon MORECharles Riley - May 23, 2012 3:22 PM ET
Some states could soon be allowed to use unemployment funds to subsidize on-the-job training and other re-employment programs.
The Obama administration Thursday launched the effort, which will permit up to 10 states to use administrative funds or their trust funds to implement pilot programs that expedite the return of the unemployed to work.
The initiative is a key part of the president's effort to overhaul the unemployment system. It is part of MORETami Luhby - Apr 19, 2012 3:17 PM ET
Beyond Big Miss: Wkly earnings down, aggregate payrolls up, PT for econ. reasons WAY down.Returnees working cheap = wage/price disinflation
— Dan Alpert (@DanielAlpert) April 06, 2012
Dan Alpert, a managing partner at Westwood Capital in New York, is one of my favorite sources. He was a life saver on that fateful Sunday night in September 2008 when it seemed the world was ending. He was in the CNN studios doing TV MOREPaul R. La Monica - Apr 6, 2012 3:07 PM ET
The job market might be getting better...but not for teens
Their unemployment rate remains above 20% for the 40th month in a row, the first time this has happened since the government started keeping records in 1948.
Last month, it edged up to 23.8%, roughly the same as a year ago and up a bit since December. The national unemployment rate, meanwhile, has fallen to 8.3%.
Some 31 states and the District of MORETami Luhby - Mar 15, 2012 9:23 AM ET
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