Long-term unemployment—when unemployed workers have been seeking work for six months or more—is the most severe form of joblessness. The consequences of extended periods of joblessness are significant: the long-term unemployed often face financial, personal, and health care hardships as well as the loss of their unemployment insurance benefits. An analysis of long-term unemployment from 2000 to 2003 (a period spanning the recession that occurred between March and November 2001) shows that the number of people without work for six months or more has risen at the extraordinarily high rate of 198.2% over this period.1 Job seekers with college degrees and those age 45 and older have had an especially difficult time finding work, with long-term unemployment for those groups rising by 299.4% and 217.6%, respectively.
Since the recession ended in November 2001, elevated rates of long-term joblessness among the unemployed have persisted longer than during any similar period in the past 30 years. The long-term unemployment situation continued to worsen between 2001 and 2003 as job creation lagged. A number of important trends emerge from the data on long-term unemployment across this time period.