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 []


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  1. redskull says:

    Another double plus ungood announcement from the Ministry of Truth.

    • buzz86us says:

      love the 1984 reference, I think they need to track the people who have taken obvious pay cuts as well when it comes to the recession’s effect on unemployment because when you go from an exec to working at McDonalds you know theres an obvious effect on unemployment.

  2. El_Fez says:

    But, but . . . .I’m getting a raise! The other post told me so!

  3. nybiker says:

    Next week will be 2 years of unemployment for me. Granted, I had a short spell as a Census worker this year, so it wasn’t all bad.

    • Erich says:

      Pretty much the same for me, but add in a broken leg and no disability, just to make things that much more interesting.

  4. c!tizen says:

    Now if we could just get the government to change the way it does everything else…


    – make lobbying illegal
    – make provable political and judicial corruption an act of treason punishable by death
    – cut these tax breaks for the ridiculously wealthy
    – regulate the hell out of the fed
    – create and promote incentives for keeping jobs local
    – revoke tax breaks for outsourcing jobs over seas. (or at least put a reasonable cap on the amount of outsourced employees they’re allowed to have.)
    – immediately close loopholes that allow corporations to get around laws made to keep them from doing stupid crap.
    – get rid of the TSA and the a$$hat that runs it

    oh, and legalize pot.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “regulate the hell out of the fed”

      Meaningless statement. Who is the “fed” in this case, we have many branches of the government. And in what way do you mean to regulate it?

      • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

        I think he meant the federal reserve. Often refered to as “the fed”.

        A couple things left off here:

        1) de-certify unions
        2) set govt pay commensurate with equivalent civilian pay
        3) change pensions from defined benefits structure to defined contributions structure.

        • ccooney says:

          why are you so intent on screwing govt workers? The whole point of a govt job is to trade good salary for good benefits, retirement. The fact that the private sector is so degraded is a separate problem.

          • fsnuffer says:

            #1 The trade has not been made. Government workers are getting paid more than private ones and still have a very generous pension.

            #2 “The fact that the private sector is so degraded is a separate problem.” No it is not since their taxes, or lack thereof, are the ones used to pay Government salaries and benefits.

          • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

            I almost thought there should have been a /sarc tag on your reply. I’m not trying to screw anyone. Your notion that the whole point of a govt jobt is to make good money/benes/retirement for (what u didn’t say) I assume is work, is absurd. The point of a govt job is to run the government. Period. There is no plausible reason a admin assistant (or whatever position) in the govt should make twice the pay/benes as a civilian worker. There may be excuses, but not plausible reasons.

            Think of it this way:
            Company A hires it’s widget paperwork tracker for 20.00 per hour. 40 hour week, 401k match of 3%.

            Company B hires it’s widget paperwork tracker for 40 per hour. 40 hour week, full pension at 20 years.

            Company B generates it’s revenue from company A via taxes. After 40 years of underfunded pensions, company B has 3 options. DEM: 1) Charge company A more money to support it’s shortcomings. 2) Declare the value of what company A pays currently (print more money by the fed) and thus forcing company A to pay more money. REP 3) Restructure company B to a more realistic functioning company by not needlessly overpaying staff/overemploying staff, and ending the pension liabilities by moving from a defined benefit structure to a defined contribution structure.

            • indeeme says:

              “There is no plausible reason a admin assistant (or whatever position) in the govt should make twice the pay/benes as a civilian worker.”

              There certainly is a plausible reason. Civilian admin assistants are underpaid.

          • fsnuffer says:

            #1 the trade has not been made. Government workers are getting paid more than private ones and still have a very generous pension.

            #2 “The fact that the private sector is so degraded is a separate problem.” No it is not since their taxes, or lack thereof, are the ones used to pay Government salaries and benefits.

            • Me - now with more humidity says:

              So? Many people get paid better than others. What do you want to happen? Level all wages so you’re happy?

              • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

                No “me”. Since the govt. procures money from private citizens to operate, it is a major conflict of interest for it to then pay it’s employees exceptionally higher levels of pay. It creates an unfair competition of obtaining skilled workers (between the govt who can print money or tax it and a business that has to earn it) The GS system tried to address the issue, but it is woefully outdated and simplistic..

                No one is saying pay everyone the same. Just that if the median pay is 20 an hour for a widget maker, then the govt has to pay commensurate. Can there be exceptions, sure. But as it is now, exceptionally higher pay is the rule.

                Pay is also only one aspect. That same widget maker on the govt. rolls gets something on order of 40 to 60 percent higher benefits packages, including defined benefits… Private industry can’t compete with that.

        • PunditGuy says:

          As long as your rule applies equally to contractors as employees, bring it on. I’m looking at you, DoD.

      • DEVO says:

        THE FEDERAL RESERVE. Smart ass.

    • p. observer says:

      i’ll give you that with one change
      legalize AND regulate the hell out of pot with a minimum age of at least 21

      • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

        Is there a ‘rapid’ test for MJ intoxication? If not then what you propose will never happen. Not to stray too much

  5. jim says:

    oh, I am certain the reasons for this change will come up in 13 months time.

  6. Consumeristing says:

    All this time BLS stats were an exercise in truthiness. The thing is they still won’t count the post-benefits people in the unemployment rate at all. This is just ‘tracking’ them as a separate figure.

    • hansolo247 says:

      But they DO count them.

      If you answer the BLS survey that you are NOT working and ARE LOOKING FOR WORK, you are officially unemployed. 2 questions…answer both yes, and you are in the U number. Answer that you are out of work but not looking, you are considered O (out of the labor force).

      O=Out of Labor Force

      Unemployment rate is U/E.


  7. ALP5050 says:

    “But it will allow economists to more accurately track how serious the current recession is when compared to previous downturns” Uhh.. it’s bad, and going to get much worse weather you are employed or not…

  8. indeeme says:

    Will the count include those who are unwillingly working as “independent contractors” on call an average of three days a week during maybe two weeks out of each month, never knowing when their “contract” will call on them next (or if)?

    • humphrmi says:

      That’s my situation too. I went from fully employed to contracting in order to pay the bills, with bits of unemployment between each contract. Resuming unemployment insurance payments after a short term contract ends is a quagmire, along with all the other safety net services (subsidized school lunches for the kids, medicare / medicaid, etc.)

      They say that this is the new reality – more short-term, temp-ish workers in the workforce changing jobs every few months. If so, they need to figure out how to make the employment reporting scheme (and social services, for that matter) work in this “new reality”.

    • hansolo247 says:

      If you were compensated for being on call, that’s work.

      If not, then it’s not work.

      • humphrmi says:

        There’s a big difference between what you call “work” and what many people today call “paying the bills”. If you’re compensated for being on call then you should quietly feel great about your on call stipend. I hope you keep it. And I hope karma comes your way.

      • indeeme says:

        No, there is no compensation between calls, no guarantee they won’t find someone to do the job for .50 less the next time, and absolutely no negotiating power on the “contractor’s” end. As far as I’m concerned, that’s unemployed. But I doubt they’ll include that in the count.

  9. AnthonyC says:

    “But it will allow economists to more accurately track how serious the current recession is when compared to previous downturns. “

    If we never tracked this before, that makes little sense. I will only help economists compare this recession to *future* downturns, not previous ones.

    • not-gonna-tell-ya says:


    • sonneillon says:

      That reminds me of a pet peeve of mine where people will compare the current “true unemployment rate” against previous unemployment rates that were the regular kind.

      Also what is to say they don’t have enough data to just ret-con the old unemployment rates?

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        The rates are based on survey’s where you check off how long you’ve been unemployed, with the longest option being “99 Weeks or over”. Even if they had the raw data from prior recessions, the data’s only going to show that.

  10. MNGirl says:

    I have always hated how they measure unemployment rates. It only measures people receiving unemployment benefits, not people that were fired, quit, weren’t at there last job long enough when laid off to receive benefits, ect.

    • MNGirl says:

      Oh, and self employed people, like my father in law who owns his own company, and when work runs out, he doesn’t get unemployment, or my father, who is self employed because he contracts himself out as a programmer is not counted, because he technically works for himself.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      That’s a common misconception. The unemployment rate is not connected to unemployment benefits at all. The government has an employment survey that is used to calculate the unemployment rate. If you are willing to work and looking for work, you’re considered unemployed, regardless of benefits, length of last employment, termination reason, etc. The rate is simply (# unemployed)/(# unemployed + # employed).


    • MNGirl says:

      I have never once had someone come and ask me about my employment, or a phone call, e mail, letter, ect.

  11. The311Kid says:

    If only they actually did audits of the “99+ weeks”, they’d find out how many people are dogging the system. If you make more or almost the same amount in unemployment, where’s the incentive to find a job?

  12. Cicadymn says:

    I wish they also wouldn’t stop counting people who’ve “given up” on looking for work. Every now and then you’ll see a report that unemployment is down .1% because another several thousand simply “quit” looking for work.

    If you’re an adult over the age of 18, and don’t go to school, or work, aren’t physically disabled, or do anything for that matter, then you should be counted among the unemployed! Not having a job isn’t a job people!

    • Coelacanth says:

      Should home-makers be counted, or people who have absolutely no desire to enter into the labour force? While I don’t have a decent reference of statistics handy, it’s pretty common knowledge that most households lived on only one person’s income until the last few decades. This would make comparison with previous recessions / The Great Depression more difficult.

      Maybe as long as they asked people, “have you made any effort recently to look for paid employment?”, and filtered out the “No’s.”

      I also take issue with the possibility of full-time college students being considered “unemployed.”

      • Cicadymn says:

        Ah that’s an excellent point. Surely they could add something that’s like “If you’re a homemaker then say you’re employed.”

        As well, if you’re in college and not looking for work, then you don’t need to be counted as unemployed.

        Granted I worked through my entire college years to, but not everyone HAS to, or are willing to go further into debt so they don’t have to.

  13. Zydia says:

    “won’t change the way the unemployment rate is calculated “
    I’m all for collecting more detailed data, but way to ignore what really needs the attention.

  14. Mecharine says:

    The same paragraph says this change won’t affect anything and then continues with it being called a “sign of the times”.

    I find that logic hilariously sad.