For many millions of Americans who lost their jobs when the Great Recession struck, unemployment has not just been a typical, momentary bump in the road; it has been persistent, and grinding, and, for many, seemingly impossible to escape, despite their best efforts. Losing a job is bad enough, but the sort of long term unemployment afflicting America for the past several years has been a nightmare. Now, there seems to be the merest flicker of improvement.
The long-term unemployed-those out of work more than six months-made up 39.1% of all job seekers in December, according to the Labor Department, the first time that figure has dropped below 40% in more than three years.
The other relevant facts that may cause you to lose any tiny spark of joy that this news produced: there are still nearly five million Americans who have been unemployed more than six months. And the labor force participation rate has been plunging ever since the recession, indicating the fact that more and more people simply give up and stop looking for a job altogether, at which point they are no longer counted as "unemployed." (The WSJ says that the current drop in long term unemployment is largely a result of people actually getting jobs, not dropping out of the labor force.)