In 2007, before the Great Recession, people who were looking for work for more than six months — the definition of long-term unemployment — accounted for just 0.8% of the labor force. In 2010, the long-term unemployed accounted for 4.2% of the work force. It disproportionately affects the young, the old, the less educated, and African-American and Latino workers. It's causing human diaster.
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The New York Times report by Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, not only defines the crisis but advocates a solution.
"Policy makers must come together and recognize that this is an emergency, and fashion a comprehensive re-employment policy that addresses the specific needs of the long-term unemployed," say the authors. "A policy package that as a whole should appeal to the left and the right should spend money to help expand public and private training programs with proven track records; expand entrepreneurial opportunities by increasing access to small-business financing; reduce government hurdles to the formation of new businesses; and explore subsidies for private employers who hire the long-term unemployed. Those who hire for government jobs must do their share, too: managers who are filling open positions should be given explicit incentives to reconnect these lost workers."
"Every month of delay," the auithors say, "is a month in which our unemployed friends and neighbors drift further away."