Sunday, March 07, 2010

Graphs: Duration of Unemployment

by Bill McBride on 3/07/2010 08:48:00 AM

Here are two graphs that show the weeks unemployed over the last 40 years.

Unemployment Duration Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The first graph shows the number of unemployed in four categories as provided by the BLS: less than 5 week, 6 to 14 weeks, 15 to 26 weeks, and 27 weeks or more.

Note: The BLS reports 15+ weeks, so the 15 to 26 weeks number was calculated.

The second graph shows the same information as a percent of the civilian labor force.

Unemployment Duration It appears there was more turnover in the '70s and '80s, since the 'less than 5 weeks' category was much higher as a percent of the civilian labor force than in recent years. This changed in the early '90s - perhaps as a result of more careful hiring practices or changes in demographics or maybe other reasons - but if the level of normal turnover was the same as in the '80s, the current unemployment rate would probably be the highest since WWII.

What really makes the current period stand out is the number of people (and percent) that have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. In the early '80s, the 27 weeks or more unemployed peaked at 2.9 million or 2.6% of the civilian labor force.

In January, there were 6.3 million people unemployed for 27 weeks or more, or 4.1% of the labor force. The number declined slightly in February, but this is much higher than earlier periods.

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