The Impact of Long-Term Unemployment and How to Get Help

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Even though the unemployment rate is dropping and the economy is creating jobs, there are still millions of people out of work in the U.S. For many of those who are unemployed, the length of time out of work is only increasing. 

As the duration of unemployment increases, the challenges of finding work increase and, as a result, it can become harder to get hired.

In October 2020, the number of unemployed persons who were jobless for 15 to 26 weeks decreased by 2.3 million to 2.6 million. The number of persons jobless for 5 to 14 weeks decreased by 457,000 to 2.3 million. Conversely, the number of long-term unemployed workers increased by 1.2 million to 3.6 million. This group accounted for 32.5% of the total unemployed.

What Is Long-Term Unemployment?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks unemployment by duration. The long-term unemployed are a category of unemployed workers who have been out of work for 27 continuous weeks or more.

Who Is Most Impacted by Long-Term Unemployment?

Unemployment has impacted some workers more than others, but when joblessness becomes long term, there is a shift in the groups that continue to be unemployed.

Current Unemployment Listed by Race

The unemployment rate for October 2020 for major worker groups was:

  • Black (10.8%)
  • Hispanic (8.8%)
  • Asian (7.6%)
  • White (6.0%)

Long-Term Unemployment by Race

According to the BLS, the percentage of workers who remain on unemployment for an extended period of time (exceeding 27 weeks) categorized by race include: 

  • Black (15%)
  • Hispanic or Latino (13.4%)
  • Asian (13.4%)
  • White (12%)

Unemployment and Age

The October unemployment rate dropped to 5.2% for workers over age 55. However, older workers may be more likely to be laid off than younger employees, and some may have involuntarily retired early. 

The Retirement Equity Lab at The New School reports that for the first time in nearly 50 years, workers 55 and older face a higher rate of job loss than mid-career workers. The former group has also experienced longer durations of unemployment, with 28% of older job seekers finding employment each month, compared to 32% of mid-career employees.

The Challenges of Long-Term Unemployment

One of the many challenges for the long-term unemployed is that when you are out of work, it can be harder to get hired. For many job seekers, it takes much more effort to find a job when unemployed than when working.

In a 2017 study, the New York Fed’s Liberty Street Economics found that job searching was less effective for unemployed job seekers than it was for employees seeking a job change. In fact, unemployed workers spent 8.4 hours per week searching and applied for 8.1 jobs per month, while those employed spent 1.2 hours per week searching and applied for 1.2 jobs per month. 

The study also reported that employed workers actively looking for work receive the greatest number of employer contacts and job offers, despite spending less time job hunting.

Assistance for Unemployed Workers

The longer you’re unemployed, the more challenging and disheartening it can be. But there are resources available to help. 

Extended Unemployment Benefits

If you have exhausted regular unemployment benefits, there are extended benefits in place. In most states, you should automatically qualify for the next tier of benefits. However, eligibility depends on your work history and state and federal guidelines for qualifying.

The CARES Act provides extra weeks of benefits through December 31, 2020. In addition, federal government Extended Benefits (EB) are available to workers who have exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits during periods of high unemployment.

Information on current benefits is available on your state unemployment website. If you have difficulty contacting them, your state legislators may be able to help you get an expedited response.

Resources to Get Help

There are resources available to help unemployed workers regain employment. Tap into those that fit your circumstances, so you can get back on track as quickly as possible.

  • CareerOneStop: The best place to find help fast is CareerOneStop’s Economic Recovery portal. There are resources on unemployment, career changing, finding job postings, housing, finances, food, health care, and mental health.
  • American Job Centers: American Job Centers (AJCs) provide free help, including online and phone assistance, to job seekers for a variety of career and employment-related needs. 
  • State and Local Resources: There are state and local resources available for job search, career help, and training.
  • College Career Services: If you’re a college graduate, check with your career services office to learn about alumni resources. Many colleges provide resume and cover letter assistance, job search help, career networking, and job listings for alumni.
  • Resources for People of Color: Zippia has a list of career websites dedicated to people of color.
  • Resources for Older Workers: AARP has information on resources for older workers who have lost jobs due to the pandemic.
  • Training Programs & Apprenticeships: There are apprenticeship programs, certifications, and training programs, with funding available, that can help you make a transition to a new career if you’re in a down industry.

Here’s what to do, where you can get help, and how you can get financial assistance if you have run out of unemployment benefits.

Where to Find Job Postings

Here are some of the ways you can speed up your job search and find a job or a gig to supplement your income fast. 

Our step-by-step guide to getting back on your feet after losing your job will help you get started.

Job sites are highlighting jobs that are available now, and companies are fast-tracking the hiring process for many positions. Here are some of the way you can find available jobs:

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims.” Page 2. Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.

  2.  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The Employment Situation - October 2020." Page 2. Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Concepts and Definitions." Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.

  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employment Situation Summary." Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.

  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey." Table E-18. Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.

  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The Employment Situation - October 2020." Table A-10. Accessed Nov. 9, 2020. 

  7. The New School, Retirement Equity Lab. "Status of Older Workers - October 2020." Pages 1-2. Accessed Nov. 9, 2020. 

  8. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics. "How Do People Find Jobs?" Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.

  9. U.S. Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Extended Benefits." Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.