Spotlight Exclusives

Assessing the Impact of Long-Term Unemployment

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Federal unemployment insurance programs are scheduled to expire December 31, potentially leaving an estimated 1.8 million Americans without unemployment benefits in January alone. Additionally, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) reports an estimated six million people will lose benefits over the course of the next year if Congress does not renew the program.


Of special concern to many advocates, researchers and policymakers are the long-term unemployed, officially defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as those who have been jobless for 27 or more weeks. According to the latest BLS data, the number of long-term unemployed is currently about 5.7 million, or 43 percent of all jobless. Many regard this group as facing the toughest obstacles to employment, a situation that worsens the longer they are out of work.


To draw attention to the issue, the Kaiser Family Foundation and National Public Radio conducted a major poll of the long-term unemployed and underemployed — those who are working part-time but desire a full-time job. 


Among the key findings, the poll found that the long-term unemployed are more likely to:


·         Be low-wage workers

·         Suffer mental and physical health consequences from job loss

·         Put off seeking needed health care

·         Blame Congress and Wall Street for the country۪s economic woes


Unsurprisingly, this group is not optimistic about the future. A majority said they “don’t have much confidence they’ll get a job with sufficient pay and benefits” anytime soon.


While respondents spoke favorably of the role government can play in helping them, they were unconvinced that efforts to date had been effective. Seven in ten said they would “like the government to offer more job training opportunities and placement services,” yet only about 10 percent said they “believe that government efforts to deal with the poor economy have helped them.”


As the December 31 deadline for renewing federal unemployment insurance approaches, this is an important time to think about the long-term unemployed, who now face losing a critical source of financial support. Stay tuned as Spotlight continues to track this issue.

Posted by Mike

Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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