Nearly One-Quarter of Unemployed Americans Have Been Without Work for More Than a Year

But the labor market added over 900,000 jobs in March as well, offering a bit of positive news for the U.S. economy.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 2.4 million of the 9.9 million jobless Americans have been without employment for a year or more. The Bureau posted its job report for last month on Friday. The figure amounts to 24 percent of all unemployed people in the U.S. It’s also 1.6 million more Americans than March 2020’s figure. There was a bit of good news, though. The U.S. labor market gained 916,000 jobs in March.

The March statistics come nearly a year after the coronavirus began to make its way around the world while unraveling the U.S. labor market.

Even though the U.S.’s unemployment rate has been falling of late, long-term unemployment continues to rise. That’s not a normal cycle, economists say, especially during what many consider to be a recovery. Usually, if unemployment rates fall, long-term unemployment will drop with it. But, the opposite is happening.

Heidi Shierholz, the Economic Policy Institute’s director, said: “I think that number is pretty breathtaking, that nearly a quarter of unemployed workers have been unemployed for over a year,” Shierholz said.

Shierholz previously worked as a chief economist for the Department of Labor.

The statistics have given a peek at the extent of joblessness since government officials issued lockdowns in the U.S. a year ago once they grasped the seriousness of the pandemic. Since then, millions of Americans have been collecting unemployment benefits.

Some experts believe the reported number is underestimated because the Department of Labor doesn’t consider workers who leave the workforce voluntarily to stay home with their kids as schools shuttered classes or those at increased risks to their health. The figure also includes figures only through the middle of March, so many believe the number of jobless Americans is likely to rise in the April report. The Bureau doesn’t report which industries have been impacted the most by long-term unemployed workers, but the hospitality and leisure industries are believed to be among the hardest-hit sectors, according to Shierholz. Over 3 million workers in the hospitality and leisure industries haven’t returned yet to work, marking one-third of those workers as unemployed.

Currently, long-term unemployment levels are peaking near Great Recession levels. Long-term unemployment is usually six months or more out of work. Workers who are out of work long-term find it more difficult to find new employment or keeping new work that comes along, making it difficult all around to make ends meet.

The U.S. government’s increase in unemployment benefits helps bridge the gap to help Americans needing cash. The president’s American Rescue Plan has extended financial aid through September while adding $300 to unemployed workers’ weekly stipend. But, not every unemployed American qualifies for help.

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