The millions of Americans suffering through long stretches of unemployment could be left behind as the economy strengthens, a study by an influential former White House economist found.
Alan Krueger, a respected labor market economist who led President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said those unemployed long term tended to put less effort into their job hunts than others and were often viewed by employers as undesirable.
The sobering analysis published on Thursday by the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, projected that people out of work for more than six months will increasingly give up their job search in the coming years.
Their plight could be one of the deepest scars left by the 2007-’09 U.S. recession.
While the unemployment rate has fallen quickly over the past year, most of the workers getting jobs have experienced only brief stretches of unemployment.
It has yet to be seen whether the long-term unemployed will eventually get jobs as the economy strengthens or drop out of the labor force altogether. Krueger’s analysis suggests America is headed toward the latter of those two paths.
“A concerted effort will be needed to raise the employment prospects of the long-term unemployed, especially as they are likely to withdraw from the job market at an increasing rate,” Krueger wrote in the paper, which was co-authored by his Princeton University colleagues Judd Cramer and David Cho.
In February, there were 3.8 million people without jobs who’d been actively looking for work for at least 27 weeks, nearly three times more than before the recession.