Tales from the unemployment line: barriers facing the long-term unemployed

People stand in line as they look for jobs at the Miami Dade College Mega Job Fair in North Miami, Florida on Mar. 3, 2009.

Article Highlights

  • It is typical for long-term unemployment to increase following a recession, but the current levels are unprecedented

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  • Many workers who have been out of work for an extended period of time may never fully regain their financial footing

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  • The consequences of long-term unemployment are particularly damaging to our economy and society

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Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Enzi, and Members of the Committee, my name is Alex Brill, and I am a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on the important topic of the status of long-term unemployment in the United States.

Brill's testimony Tales from the Unemployment Line

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As my testimony will describe, the recent improvement in payrolls and the unemployment rate are welcome news, but the plight of the long-term unemployed in the United States is considerable. The policies that have been executed since mid-2008 to foster an economic recovery have failed to deliver measurable results, and those most hurt by the current downturn are often the long-term unemployed. In fact, some policy actions taken by Congress and the Administration have likely exacerbated the duration of unemployment for some workers, the consequences of which are significant fiscal, economic, and social costs.

After a description of the recent and current labor market situation, my testimony describes the social and economic costs of long-term unemployment, followed by a description of the repeated and costly federal expansion of the unemployment insurance benefits program. My testimony concludes with recommendations of changes to the unemployment insurance program and other fiscal policy reforms necessary to address this issue comprehensively.

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