Government To Change Way It Counts Long-Term Unemployed

If you’ve been unemployed 100 weeks or longer, you’re in luck. No, you’re not about to get a new job. But for the first time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will accurately track the length of time you’ve been unemployed when calculating long-term unemployment. Previously, the agency had to check off “99 weeks or over” for anyone unemployed longer than two years. See, the recession isn’t all bad, is it?

The new system, which replaces one that’s been in place for over 30 years, won’t change the way the unemployment rate is calculated, and won’t provide the long-term unemployed with any additional benefits. But it will allow economists to more accurately track how serious the current recession is when compared to previous downturns. As USA Today explains:

A two-year limit hampers economists’ ability to compare this recession’s effect on the job market with another severe one in the early 1980s, [economist Linda] Barrington says.

Although “this feels like something we’ve not experienced” since the Great Depression, she says, economists need more information to be sure.

The change will not affect how the unemployed are counted or the unemployment rate is computed nor how long those eligible for unemployment benefits receive them. Analysts call the move a sign of the times.

“We realize more and more people are unemployed longer than 99 weeks, so we need to break it down further,” [BLS spokesperson Stacey] Standish says.

Long-term unemployment has grown markedly over the past few years. The BLS says the average length of unemployment has increased from 29.4 weeks in November 2009 to 34.5 weeks last month. Nearly 10% of the USA’s 15.1 million jobless have been looking for work for two years or more.

U.S. changes how it measures long-term unemployment [USATODAY.com]