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Economy in Brief

U.S. Long-Term Unemployment Shows An Out-Sized Decline
by Tom Moeller  April 7, 2014

Friday's report on U.S. labor market conditions showed a pickup in payroll employment growth and a stable, but low unemployment rate. Within the detail behind these observations was another sign of job market improvement: the ranks of those unemployed for the longest periods of time are thinning at the greatest rate.

The unemployment rate held steady last month at 6.7%, where it's been during three of the last four months. It was down from 7.5% twelve months earlier and was at the lowest level since October 2008. Overall unemployment during the last twelve months fell 10.8%. Leading the way lower was a 19.6% y/y drop in the number of workers out of work for 27-51 weeks. The ranks of the even longer-term unemployed fell 18.0% y/y. These double-digit rates of decline continue the strong down-trend in place since 2012. The number of shorter-term unemployed were down single digits or negligibly during the last twelve months.

The declines in unemployment by duration have been accompanied by moderate change in the respective jobless percentages. The percentage of those unemployed for more than a year now account for a lesser 24.8% of the total versus 31.4% during the peak year of 2011. The percentage of those unemployed 27-51 weeks similarly fell to 11.2% from 12.4% in 2011. Relatively stable at 19.6% has been the percentage of those unemployed for less than 5 weeks. Higher rates of short-term unemployment balanced these declines. The percentage of those who were unemployed for 15-26 weeks rose to 18.2% of the total from 15.0% at the low and the percentage of those unemployed 5-14 weeks gained to 26.2% from 21.7% in 2011.

These figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are available in Haver's EMPL database.

Unemployment by Duration (NSA) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2013 2012 2011
Total Number of Unemployed Workers (000s) 10,537 10,893 10,855 -10.8% -8.4% -9.0% -7.3%
   Unemployed 52 Weeks & Over 2,616 2,762 2,452 -18.0 -18.9 -14.9 0.2
   Unemployed 27-51 Weeks 1,180 1,124 1,238 -19.6 -9.1 -13.9 -19.3
   Unemployed 15-26 Weeks 1,913 1,771 1,702 -6.7 -2.8 -9.8 -13.1
   Unemployed 5-14 Weeks 2,766 3,091 2,587 -9.0 -3.8 -4.2 -8.4
   Unemployed Less Than 5 Weeks 2,064 2,145 2,876 -0.1 -2.3 -1.3 -3.4
Percent of Total Unemployed
   52 Weeks & Over 24.8 25.4 22.6 27.0 26.0 29.3 31.4
   27-51 Weeks 11.2 10.3 11.4 12.4 11.7 11.8 12.4
   15-26  Weeks 18.2 16.3 15.7 17.4 15.8 14.9 15.0
   5-14 Weeks 26.2 28.4 23.8 25.7 24.0 22.9 21.7
   Less Than 5 Weeks 19.6 19.7 26.5 17.5 22.5 21.1 19.4
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