Millions of Americans Are Still Long-Term Unemployed, But the Number Is Falling

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Largely lost in last week’s disappointing September jobs report is the fact that the number of long-term unemployed Americans continues to decline — a good sign for those who want to return to work after many months of unemployment and the companies that need to hire them.

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Just less than 2.7 million people were long-term unemployed in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning they were out of work for 27 weeks or more. That’s still a sizeable portion of total unemployed, at 34.5%, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep many people on the sidelines. But the September numbers were a big improvement from August, when there were 3.2 million long-term unemployed who represented 37.4% of total unemployed.

In fact, the number and percentage of long-term unemployed has fallen for three straight months. As recently as June, the long-term unemployed numbered nearly four million and made up 42.1% of total unemployed. The number and share of long-term unemployed are now at their lowest levels since September and October 2020, respectively, CNBC reported.

The numbers are also well down from the pandemic-era peak this past March, when nearly 4.3 million Americans were long-term unemployed, representing 43.4% of the total.

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Brian Deese, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, noted on Twitter that over the past three months, the number of long-term unemployed has fallen by 1.3 million. “That is the largest three-month decline since [the] BLS began keeping records in 1948.”

It’s also a bright spot in an otherwise dismal jobs report. As previously reported by GOBankingRates, the U.S. economy added just 194,000 jobs in September, widely missing the Dow Jones estimate of 500,000. A steep decline in government employment contributed significantly to the low figure, as government jobs fell by 123,000 during the month to partially offset a gain of 317,000 jobs in the private sector.

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Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America, told GOBankingRates in an email statement that while the September jobs report is “an important reality-check moment in our road to recovery,” it’s important to keep in mind that the numbers were impacted by the COVID delta variant.

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She also noted that the U.S. economy has no shortage of job openings as employers desperately try to fill payrolls. The good news for unemployed Americans is that companies are rolling out the perks to attract people.

“We know that today there are 11 million open jobs and 8 million people looking for work,” Frankiewicz  said. “Employers across the country are getting increasingly creative when it comes to attracting and retaining skilled workers. It’s no longer enough that employers are adjusting wages; they’ve got to address health and well-being, safety and flexibility, too.”

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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