Chronic unemployment highest since Great Depression

unemployment, jobless, out of work, forms, insurance, unemployed, generic AP / file

Updated 6/13/11

There is an unfortunate adage for the unemployed: The longer folks are out of a job, the longer it takes them to find a new one.

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports that the chronically unemployed face the hardest road back to recovery, and that while the jobs picture may be improving statistically on a national level, it is not for them.

Tinong Nwachan, for example, has far too much time on his hands. When CBS News met the former truck driver he had been out of work for two years.

"I don't really tell too many people this but I'm not ashamed or nothing, I'm homeless," Nwachan said.

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His day job is looking for work at a jobs center in Hollywood. He has plenty of company, including Fabian Lambrecht, who wonders when the economy's improvement will affect them.

"They're saying there are more jobs. I'm just wondering where those jobs are," Lambrecht said.

About 6.2 million Americans, 45.1 percent of all unemployed workers in this country, have been jobless for more than six months - at its highest since the Great Depression.

The bigger the gap on someone's resume, the more questions employers have.

"(Employers) think: 'Oh, well, there must be something really wrong with them because they haven't gotten a job in 6 months, a year, 2 years.' But that's not necessarily the case," said Marjorie Gardner-Cruse with the Hollywood Worksource Center.

The problem of course is the economy, but some industries, especially certain manufacturing jobs, are not ever expected to come back. Experts say unemployed workers need to be prepared to change careers.

"That person has to realize that, discover what field they want to work in, become trained and find a job in that field," said Jerry Nickelsburg, Sr., an economist at UCLA.

Here's another problem: more than 1 million of the long-term unemployed have run out of unemployment benefits, leaving them without the money to get new training, buy new clothes, or even get to job interviews.

"If you have been unemployed for 6 months or more, it takes a much deeper toll - not just on your personal finances and your career prospects - but on your emotional well-being," said Paul Taylor, an executive vice president with the Pew Research Center.

Tinong Nwachan said no matter how hard it's been, he isn't giving up on his search.

"I'm taking everything one day at a time. Eventually I know I'm gonna find something," Nwachan said.

All he says he's hoping for is a job that will take more of his time, and take him off the streets.


Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, we said that the long-term unemployment situation was worse than the Great Depression.

According to Congressional Research Service data from the end of the Depression (1937-onward), chronic unemployment is worse now as a percentage (at 44 percent vs. about 31 percent.)

However, long-term unemployment data does not exist for the early years of the Great Depression.

  • Ben Tracy

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