One of the largest insurance systems in the United States — federal unemployment insurance — is on the brink of collapse due to the rate of chronic long-term joblessness that has now exceeded the previous record set just after World War II.
In October the economy picked up 151,000 jobs, the best gain since May. Private job growth was up by 159,000. However, the increases are insufficient to put a dent in America’s 9.6 percent rate, indicating severe unemployment may will continue past the time frame of the government programs designed to combat the problem.
More than 6.2 million Americans have been out of a job for longer than six months, shattering the previous post-war high of 20.5 weeks. Normally federal unemployment benefits last six months, but after several extensions by Congress, the people who have been receiving assistance the longest will reach the upper limit of 99 weeks some time this winter. In April 2011, all emergency benefits will expire.
Currently, the economy is still 7.5 million jobs shy of its previous peak and many analysts are fearful that the chronically unemployed become less desirable as hires as their skill sets grow out of date and they simply become out of practice in their specialities, a particular problem in professions heavily reliant on technology.
According to figures compiled by the National Employment Law Project, 2 million workers could lose their unemployment benefits by the end of the year, with the total potentially reaching 4 million in April.