Chart: Who Are the Long-Term Unemployed?


Nearly a third of the 14 million Americans who are officially unemployed have been out of work for more than a year, enough to fill the state of Louisiana. That share of total unemployment has grown by 50 percent since December 2009. These aren't merely the long-term unemployed, a term the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines as being out of work for more than six months. These are the long-long-term unemployed. The 52-weekers.

What do we know about them? The Pew fiscal analysis of the long-term unemployed gives us a picture. They tend to be older. Forty-five percent of the unemployed people over the age of 55 have been out of work for more than a year. They also tend to belongterm unemployed age.png less educated. More than a third of those unemployed without a college degree have been out of work for more than a year. Where they work is harder to say. The industries with the highest shares of long-term unemployment are mining and financial activities, which are also among the highest-paid. But transportation and manufacturing also suffer high long-term unemployment rates, despite representing more middle- and low-wage jobs.

Here we go with the pictures:

How Old Are They?

This is perhaps the most dramatic story about the long-term unemployed. While barely 20 percent of the youngish unemployed haven't worked in a year, the rate is twice as high for 55+ workers, even though their proximity to retirement make them needy for work. Some of this discrepancy is no doubt due tlongterm unemployed education.pngo logistics, as some younger workers haven't been in the labor force long enough to be long-term unemployed. But the broader trend is striking: At every age group, long-term unemployment makes up a larger portion of total joblessness. We talk about generational differences in unemployment. This is a huge one. Younger workers are less likely to have a job. Older workers are less likely to find another job easily.

How Long Did They Go to School?

This is one of the most surprising parts of the Pew study. Advanced and Bachelor's degrees are fantastic protection against unemployment. Joblessness is below 5% for college grads and in the mid-teens for high school drop-outs. But among the unemployment, a roughly equal share of each group -- from advanced degree to less than HS -- are long-term unemployed: Between 30 and 40% across the board.

What does this prove? Hard to say. My gut says that age has much more to do with long-term jobless trends than educational attainment. Leave your own theories in the comment section.

Where Do They Work?

We crunched and graphed some Pew data to create this chart of industry-by-industry unemployment rates (BLUE) and long-term unemployment's share of total joblessness (RED). To be clear: It might be confusing on first blush that the red bar is higher than the blue bar, because it represents fewer people. But that is because it stands for a share of total unemployment. Make sense?

long term unemployed 4.pngThere's a lot to say about this picture. I'll offer three takeaways and let you to peruse the bars:

1) There is no relationship between unemployment and long-term unemployment by industry that I can see. None. Mining has low unemployment and high salaries and terrible long-term joblessness. The leisure industry has one of the worst overall unemployment rates but its long-term jobless share is low.

2) Think about where young people work. They work in leisure. Some work as nurses or teachers. They work in wholesale and retail. Young people have an easier time finding new work. That might be a key reason why these industries have lower long-term unemployment.

3) Agriculture looks remarkably insulated from both the unemployment crisis and the long-term unemployment scourge.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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