During April, the number of people who'd been out of work for 27 weeks or longer dropped nearly 8 percent, to about 3.5 million. Does this mean that the end of unemployment benefits for the group in December actually spurred them to get jobs? Not necessarily.
The House of Representatives' decision not to renew those benefits has been a key political issue all year. Right before the new year, an estimated 1.3 million Americans who'd been out of work since summer lost unemployment insurance. Democrats called for the measure to be reinstated; Republicans argued that it would spur those people to find new work and that the unemployment rate would drop.
Since January 2008, right before the recession began, here's how the number of long-term unemployed has changed. The number spiked in 2009 and has been slowly tapering since.
And during April the figure dropped 287,000 — meaning a decrease of 908,000 over the course of the past 12 months. The unemployment rate is now 6.3 percent. Were the Republicans right?
When North Carolina ended insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed last summer, the state also saw a drop in its unemployment rate. But analysis from JP Morgan indicated that this wasn't solely because people were suddenly inspired to go find work. Instead, many simply dropped out of the workforce, meaning that they weren't counted among the long-term unemployed — and also that there was a smaller pool of people to use when calculating the unemployment rate.