In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama underscored the plight of the long-term unemployed, entreating Congress to renew the now-expired emergency unemployment benefits that expired at the end of December. In addition, he has persuaded 300 large U.S. corporations to sign a pledge stating that they will not discriminate against the long-term unemployed in their hiring practices.

That's swell, but this issue can't be fixed quite so easily and is quickly reaching crisis proportions. As time goes on, the stigma of being without a job for more than 27 weeks is affecting more people, creating a vast pool of former workers that seem to have become "unemployable."

Kiss of death
While it's unclear why people who have experienced unemployment for more than six months have become workplace pariahs, what is clear is that this problem is growing. A recent CareerBuilder study of 300 people unemployed for at least 12 months found that 30% said that they had not had a job interview in that span of time. It's not for lack of trying: 44% said they search for work daily, while 43% look each week.

Of the 10.4 million unemployed people in December, 3.9 million are categorized as long-term unemployed. That's nearly 38% of the total, and 15 states have percentages well above that ratio. Disturbingly, the majority of the long-term jobless come from the wholesale and retail trade -- which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, added an average of 32,000 jobs per month in 2013. By comparison, the expanding health-care sector added a measly 17,000 monthly jobs to the economy last year.

Far-reaching effects
The immediate effects of long-term unemployment are personal, and harsh. Of those responding to the CareerBuilder study, 25% reported not having enough money to buy food, and an equal proportion said their situation has added undue stress to their personal relationships. Ten percent acknowledged losing their home because of their lack of employment.

The long-term unemployed are unable to contribute to the economy, which is undoubtedly slowing the nation's recovery from the Great Recession. For example, the recent expiration of extended jobless benefits -- in which 1.3 million people were dropped from the unemployment rolls -- is said to have already cost state economies $1.76 billion. The horizon looks equally cloudy, as people without income obviously won't be investing for their future, or the future of their children.

What can be done?
Long-term unemployment is a complicated issue and will likely need multiple endeavors to make a dent in the problem. Reviving the emergency benefits program will help in the short term, but more permanent fixes are needed.

In his address to the nation, President Obama spoke about the Joining Forces program, which has prompted companies to train or hire hundreds of thousands of veterans. Additionally, Vice President Joe Biden has been charged with reforming job training programs for young people -- many of whom also number among the long-term unemployed.

A dedicated program in each state just for those who have faced joblessness for six months or more could also provide a boost. Forty-five percent of the respondents in the CareerBuilder survey felt that their job skills needed updating -- particularly technology skills, where 56% admitted feeling rusty.

Most problems respond best when tackled head-on. Why should long-term unemployment be any different?

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I am a seasoned professional ...I have been laid off, outsourced, and restructured three times in my professional career...this last one happen last June...from past experience I learned that one thing you have got to do is eliminate expenses...whether you have a job or not...I did that and so when the pink slip hit, I had no credit card debt, creditors or medical the age of 60 you don't need financial debts... By elimination of expenses I have been able to stay afloat...I have manage to pay bills a month in advance and have been lucky to not have found one employment prospect but three...the first one I found the second week after being laid off...the location and hours did not work with my schedule...then I was recommended by a prospective employer to a hiring manager...that was fine until I embroiled in a hostile work environment...I now have a job that pays minium wage and is based on commission ...I am not pleased but took this position because my unemployment is running out and unlike the other folks who are out of work with no resources a little something is better then nothing... I have been blessed to have a landlord who knows my track record of paying ahead of time and offered to help me any way he only problem is at this age how much longer can I go forward working? while I don't look or act my age eventually it will catch up to me... I recommend all folks get inexpensive health and life insurance on their own...I also recommend that when you break a bill and 5.00 come back to you put that five dollars'd be surprised how much money you will have by the end of the month....while nothing takes the place of a job having something to fall on is a blessing...

February 05 2014 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Clarice King

The older unemployed are also having it tough. When filling out job applications date of birth is asked for. So,companies know the age.I am in my sixties,a Registered Nurse and have been unemployed for all most two years. The only job I was offered was at a grocery store thirty mile away but could be given only 16 hours a week at minimum wage. That would not even pay the gas to get there and back. Most places are only hiring part time. So those who have jobs are part time. We need help. I know I sure do. I have enough to last another week.Then I am really screwed. And I am hungry. I eat one meal a day. Food stamps was giving me $ 16 a month and that was taken away. But,$16 I could not even buy cat food. Congress needs extend emergency unemployment. We also need help from the re-employment offices. I have attended their meetings and I feel as if I am invisible to them. Calling them is an all day thing.It takes up to four or five hours to speak to someone.

February 04 2014 at 3:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Clarice King's comment

Hi Clarice:

I understand your position...I know nothing I will say to you will help you but I hope you read my input above and come to some decisions regarding your unemployment situation...

May I ask if you have a church nearby? Usually these place of worship are connected to some job searches or can assist you with that...also do not be ashame to go to the soup kitchens...I have had to do that even while I was stated that you are a registered Nurse can you offered your services on a consultant level? I wish I had your certification I would be sitting very comfortable now...and yes I too am thing I would like to point out is that while applications ask you for a date of birth leave it off the application until you are hired...if the company insist tell them about identity theft and you only feel comfortable giving out information when you have a offer... I hope these tips far as food ...learn to make stews and soups and invest in making bread from scratch...I do it and I have a college age son with me...I make very creative stews and it come out wonderful...Best wishes in your search

February 05 2014 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply