Enough Long-Term Unemployed For a New City

If people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer all moved to the same place, the new city would have some 843,000 residents and be the fourth-largest municipality in California -- bigger than San Francisco, smaller than San Jose.

That statistic was unearthed by Michael Bernick of the Milken Institute, a former director of the California Department of Economic Development. In crunching state unemployment data, Bernick found that long-term unemployment (defined by the 27-week figure) has grown far faster than either the unemployment rate itself or measures of under-employment (people who take part-time work involuntarily).

To pull out a couple of figures from Bernick, who published his findings at the web site Fox & Hounds Daily (full disclosure: I'm a contributor there too): In March 2006, 37.5 percent of the unemployed had been unemployed for less than 5 weeks. Only 19.2 percent -- or about 176,000 people then -- were long-term unemployed. In March 2010, those numbers had reversed. Only 19 percent of the unemployed had been without work for less than 5 weeks, and 39 percent had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more.

Why does this matter? In general, the longer people remain unemployed, the less employable they become. Digging out of this recession will require more than the return of jobs. It will require the very difficult task of returning these long-term unemployed into workforce.

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