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Long-term unemployment continues to take costly toll, according to report

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 2, 2012 - While the nation’s overall unemployment rate has been showing improvement, a new report from the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative indicates little change for the long-term unemployed.

Here is a sampling of the statistics:

  • About 30 percent of the nearly 13.3 million Americans who were unemployed during the first quarter of 2012 had been jobless for a year or more. That number -- about 3.9 million Americans -- is slightly higher than the population of Oregon, according to Pew analysts who studied data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • On the other hand, the rate for long-term joblessness has nudged downward. It was at its highest -- 31.8 percent -- in the third quarter of 2011.
  • Some perspective: The long-term unemployment rate was 9.5 percent during the first quarter of 2008, the start of the Great Recession. That was about one-third the current rate.
  • The cost of unemployment compensation is projected at $99 billion for fiscal year 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office. About half that amount will be spent on emergency and extended benefits. The projection is down from the $159 billion spent in 2010 but three times pre-recession levels.

The full report titled “Addendum -- A Year or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment” is available on the website of Pew Charitable Trusts.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.