Long-Term Unemployment Remains High, Millions Leave Labor Force

February 3, 2012 - 1:53 PM
Unemployment Benefits

In this Jan. 25, 2012 photo, job seekers attend a job fair held by JobEXPO, a company hosting hiring events, in New York. The number of people seeking unemployment aid fell last week, a sign that companies are cutting fewer jobs and likely stepping up hiring. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(CNSNews.com) – Despite a January jobs report that saw slightly stronger private sector job growth than in recent months, long-term unemployment remains at record high levels and revised statistics show that another 1.2 million have left the labor force.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of long-term unemployed – those out of work for 27 weeks or more, was unchanged at 5.5 million in January, near its record of 6.7 million in April 2010. That number has been at historic highs of 5-6 million since August 2009.

BLS figures also reveal that the number of people who have left the labor force entirely was much higher than previously thought – 1.2 million higher.

The number of people not in the labor force – those who are unemployed and not looking for work – rose from 86.7 million in December 2011 to 87.9 million in January, a 1.2 million jump.

The record change in labor-force exits is due to a revision in overall population data that BLS does each January. What this means is that last year’s not-in-labor force figures published by BLS had not taken into account population increases recorded by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

In other words, the number of people not in the labor force has actually been higher than BLS has previously reported.

BLS does not revise previous-year figures to account for its population updates, meaning that it isn’t really possible to do an apples-to-apples comparison between December 2011 and January 2012. However, the new figures show that a much larger number of Americans have left the workforce than previously thought.

Overall, BLS reported that there were 243,000 jobs added in January and that the unemployment rate fell from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent.