Tuesday, 19 of February of 2019

Economics. Explained.  

Average Duration of Unemployment

February 1, 2019

The average duration of unemployment declined 1.3 weeks to 20.5 weeks in January after having risen 0.1 week in December.  This series bounces around from month to month.  The January level of 20.5 is the shortest average length of time workers remain unemployed since February 2009.

While the unemployment rate has fallen by 6.0% since reaching a peak of 10.0% in October 2009, the average duration of unemployment has declined far more slowly.  It is clear that  few of the new hires have been from the ranks of the long-term unemployed.  There is a mismatch between the skills that employers need, and the skill set that these long-term unemployed workers seem to have.  Employers in today’s world demand their new hires to be tech savvy, and these long-term unemployed workers tend not to have that ability.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 1.25 million workers have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, and that represents 19.3% of all unemployed workers.

The average duration of unemployment should continue to decline slowly in the months ahead as the labor market gets progressively tighter.  Firms will have to look just a bit harder to find the workers that they need, and that includes looking at long term unemployed workers and perhaps offering them some sort of training program to improve their skills.

Stephen Slifer


Charleston, SC

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