A long struggle for the long-term unemployed

The average length of unemployment in the U.S. is growing. The precipitous job loss of the current recession hasn't been followed by a rebound like in previous crises -- and many people have been out of work for two to three years, as CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reports.

Thirty-seven-year-old Thomas Abraham puts on a suit and tie when he heads to the office -- the one in his home where he searches for jobs each day.

"I am an unemployed professional," he said, admitting, "I have bad days. I am not superman. I'm not feeling good all the time."

The chemist was laid off two years ago from a pharmaceutical company.

"It was devastating," Abraham said. "Even though I am very young, I tend to be very loyal. So when I came out in 2009 it was devastating because that was like family. That was my first job coming out of university."

Abraham is one of more than 6 million Americans the government calls the long-term unemployed -- people who've been without work for 27 weeks or longer.

Every day, Abraham joins other laid-off professionals as part of a New Jersey program that helps white-collar workers find jobs.

"I have to almost call it within myself and decide who I'm going to be -- and it's not easy for me," he said.

Abraham wears the suit and tie everywhere he goes, not knowing when the opportunity that mean new full-time work might come.

"I made a commitment to myself that until I land that next job, mostly I'm going to dress like this," he said. "The reason I do this is I have an image in my mind of who I am becoming in the future regardless of whatever my circumstance is now that's what keeps me going."

Since he lost his job another 1.5 million people have joined the ranks of those out of work for 27 weeks or more.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.