Money Matters - Simplified

Many in ranks of long-term jobless

Washington -- Economists say the United States is at risk of having a large group of the permanently unemployed if the trend of long-term joblessness continues.

U.S. Labor Department data show those who have been laid off less than five weeks have a monthly re-employment rate of 30.7 percent, while only 8.7 percent of those out of work for a year can expect to find new jobs, The New York Times reported Thursday.

At the moment, 6.2 million people have been out of work for at least six months, the cutoff for unemployment to be considered long-term.

Experts say there could be a number of reasons. Those who tend to stay jobless may be poorer employees, and skills and contacts can erode, especially in fast-moving high-tech fields.

There is also a stigma to having been out of work for months or years.

"I can't imagine very many occupations and industries are of the type that if you're out for nine months, the world passes you by," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "I think this erosion-of-skills idea is way overplayed. It's probably much more about marketability."

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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