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A surge in those out of work a long time

Job seekers line up to attend the a job fair in New York City.

Tess Vigeland:
No matter how you bite down on it, that was a pretty sour-tasting jobs report we got from the Labor Department this morning. Here are the headline numbers: 54,000 jobs total added to the economy in May. We were seeing more like 220,000 a month earlier this year. Unemployment ticked up to 9.1 percent. Declines in manufacturing and temp work and tens of thousands of jobs cut from state and local governments.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman has more.


Mitchell Hartman: People unemployed six months or longer now make up 45 percent of those actively looking for work -- near a record high.

Heidi Shierholz analyzes the labor market at the Economic Policy Institute.

Heidi Shierholz: What we're facing now is just an enormous across-the-board lack of demand for workers. In every occupation, in every industry, we've seen this increase of long-term unemployment.

And who are they? Shierholz says it's everyone from teachers -- that's government budget cuts -- to construction workers and mortgage brokers -- the housing crash -- to hotel clerks and airline pilots -- blame high oil prices. They do tend to have one thing in common, though.

Shierholz: If you are an older worker, if you've spent many years or a career building up a specific set of skills and experience, you're more likely to get stuck in unemployment for long periods.

And when you find something, you jump at it -- even if it's a big step down.

Carol Montana: There comes a time when, even if it's not the job that you've had your heart set on, that you have to face reality and take whatever comes along.

Carol Montana's 58. She used to be an editor. After four years of being unemployed, she swallowed a 25 percent pay cut to take a job as a welfare caseworker in New York state. Her new job's precarious, though, there's a probation period and budget cuts are looming.

Labor economist Justin Wolfers at the Brookings Institution says the whole labor market's precarious.

Justin Wolfers: This is the point when the recovery was meant to be bringing people back to work, and we were hoping that the long-term unemployed -- people who'd been out of work six, nine, 12 months -- would be reintegrated into this important social and economic institution.

At the current pace of economic growth and job creation, we'll likely have millions of long-term unemployed for years to come.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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