Last Updated Feb 4, 2011 3:43 PM EST
To sort out some of the reasons for the long-term joblessness, I chatted with John M. McKee, a former executive with companies like DIRECTV, who oversaw the hiring (and firing) of some 3,000 workers before founding his own Los Angeles career coaching practice.
Here are some of the things that are going wrong for all these job seekers - plus a few ideas on what they can do to help themselves.
There's Stiff Competition
The high number of unemployed peers means you may be waiting on line longer for a job, McKee says. "In many areas of the country, especially those with the highest levels of unemployment, like California, there is a big chance people may run out of benefits before they get hired - even if they are very actively looking for a job right from the first day of unemployment."
You may consider moving to an area with better opportunities. Or you might need to try that much harder. On the plus side, if everyone around you is unemployed for awhile, the hole on your resume probably won't look as damaging.
A Body at Rest Stays at Rest
And a person who is unemployed may stay unemployed longer ... the longer they're unemployed. "Hiring managers often believe those who have been on the market longer may not be 'current.' They may worry that the prospect might be stale or out of touch," says McKee.
How to counteract this: Be sure to bone up on current events in your particular industry before job interviews to show that you're not out of the loop.
People Are Taking a Breather Before Looking
It's natural to want to take a little "paid vacation" after getting laid off, but that doesn't mean coasting on your severance (or your unemployment check) is a great idea. "The best advice I can give people is to get out and start looking immediately, and assume that it will take a lot longer than they'd expect," say McKee.
Don't worry about having to go back to work too soon: Proof that you'll get at least a little government-funded vacay is clear in the stats above.
If you've been unemployed for more than a few months, what has been your biggest challenge in landing a new position? Sign in below and tell us your story.
More on MoneyWatch: