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More on the Long-Term Unemployment Crisis

Some perspective on the Labor Department’s latest unemployment figures, from the National Employment Law Project:

With January’s unemployment figures, the average duration of unemployment has hit another record high of 30.2 weeks, with a historic 41.2% of the unemployed remaining out of work for six months or longer. 11.5 million Americans are collecting some form of unemployment insurance. During the most recent previous peak in long term unemployment in 1983, a comparatively low 26% of unemployed workers were out of work for six or more months, and the average duration of unemployment peaked at 21 weeks.

“With the jobs hole this deep, Congress and the Administration must bravely stare into the headwinds of budget concerns and continue to fortify the safety net throughout this year,” Christine Owens, NELP’s executive director, said in a statement. ”Any faltering of their support will bring disaster for families, communities and the economy.”

Economists are pretty much in agreement that the government, as spender of last resort, must step in with more spending to fill the void left by the drop in consumer spending that’s undermined the jobs market. The short-term borrowing, they say, is much less threatening to the economy than continuation of double-digit unemployment that would surely result without that spending. Whether lawmakers on Capitol Hill have the appetite for it is another question altogether. Early indications are that they don’t.

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