Friday's gloomy jobs report showed that in June there were 5.4 million workers who had been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, essentially unchanged from the previous month. That's down from the peak in May 2010, when there were 6.6 million long-term unemployed. But it's still light-years away from pre-crash levels—1.4 million in January 2008—and the figure has barely budged since the beginning of this year.
As long-term unemployment remains a chronic problem, federal assistance to these Americans is slated to expire. States usually provide 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. But the federal government, in response to the length and severity of this downturn, has been extending these benefits in states where unemployment is particularly high. In the hardest-hit areas, the long-term unemployed can receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment insurance.
But as I explained Thursday, these extended benefits have begun phasing out: A total of 500,000 long-term unemployed will have lost the assistance by August, and 2 million more are scheduled to lose benefits by the end of December.