Publication Date



[Excerpt] One of the characteristics of the recession that officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 was the rise in long-term unemployment. The long-term unemployed are often defined as workers who have been looking for work for more than six months. But many workers have been looking for work for longer periods. The first part of this report examines the trend in long-term unemployment using four measures of the long-term unemployed: persons who have been looking for work for more than 26 weeks, more than 52 weeks, more than 78 weeks, and for two years or more. In this report, workers who have been unemployed for two or more years are defined as the “very long-term unemployed.”

Because unemployment during the 2007-2009 recession and its aftermath increased more among some groups of workers than others, the second part of the report analyzes selected characteristics of the very long-term unemployed.

High long-term unemployment rates raise several issues for Congress. One issue is whether to reauthorize the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program. Other issues include whether to enact policies (1) to increase the demand for workers to reduce the number of long-term unemployed, (2) to provide greater incentives for employers to hire the long-term employed, (3) to create additional incentives for the long-term unemployed to accept new employment, (4) to ensure that the long-term unemployed have the skills that employers need, and/or (5) to improve the match between the skills of the long-term unemployed and the jobs that are available. This report does not address these issues.


Suggested Citation
Mayer, G. (2014). The trend in long-term unemployment and characteristics of workers unemployed for two years or more. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.