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More than one in four unemployed Americans has been unemployed for over a year, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.
Long-term unemployment has risen steadily during the Covid pandemic and poses greater financial risks for the households affected.
Almost 2.7 million people were unemployed for 52 weeks or more in April – more than twice as many as in February, according to the Bureau.
They account for about 29% of the total of 9.2 million unemployed last month. (These data do not include a seasonal adjustment.)
“Ten million Americans are still looking for work, and many of them have been since the pandemic began,” Rep Don Beyer, D-Va., Said Friday.
These statistics are likely to be an undercount. Certain workers, such as those who have completely left the workforce due to health risks or childcare obligations, are not considered unemployed because they are not actively looking for work.
According to economists, the long-term unemployed are likely to be overrepresented in the hardest hit industries such as leisure and hospitality.
In this sector there are almost 3 million fewer jobs compared to the prepandemic – a third of the 8.2 million jobs that have not yet been given back. The number of people employed in this sector, which includes restaurants, bars and hotels, rose by 331,000 last month.
The federal government has stepped in to offer income support by extending and increasing weekly unemployment benefits. The US $ 1.9 trillion bailout plan signed by President Joe Biden last month extends aid through Labor Day and offers a weekly $ 300 supplement to government benefits.
However, states like Montana and South Carolina are choosing to cut these benefits months ahead of schedule. And despite more extensive eligibility criteria during the pandemic, not all workers are eligible for assistance.
‘Steep climb ahead’
The number of Americans who have been unemployed for at least a year remains well below the post-Great Recession high.
In April 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 4.6 million people were unemployed for at least 52 weeks. It took another 20 months for that number to drop below the 4 million mark.
Long-term unemployment is unlikely to continue at the same rate this time, given the pace of vaccinations and the reopening of businesses to full capacity.
However, April’s job report was surprisingly weak as the US economy added fewer than expected 266,000. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.1% when around 430,000 people returned to work.
“The labor force participation rate is at its highest level since last August and the number of people reluctant to return to work due to the coronavirus is at the lowest level in the pandemic,” said US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on Friday.
“However, the numbers also show that we have a steep climb ahead of us,” he added.