The national unemployment rate has fallen from its recession highs, but Americans who have been out of work for six months or more are still having trouble finding work. The numbers are staggering.
The ranks of the long-term unemployed swelled last month from 5.1 million to 5.4 million, and those individuals now account for 42.8% of the unemployed. Meanwhile, the average length of time the unemployed have spent out of work has climbed steadily higher -- and older Americans have been the hardest hit.
"The result is nothing short of a national emergency," economists Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett wrote recently in the New York Times.
"Millions of workers have been disconnected from the work force, and possibly even from society. If they are not reconnected, the costs to them and to society will be grim," the economists said.
Congress and state legislators have tried all manner of programs to ease the plight of the long-term unemployed, and some have succeeded around the margins.
But four and half years after the recession, long-term unemployment still ranks as one of the economy's most pressing problems.