NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Although the unemployment rate is improving nationwide, certain regions still face the very real prospect of having a sizeable number of their unemployed left behind by the labor market.
In the Southeast, where states like Florida were among the hardest hit by the housing bubble, 37.6% of the unemployed had been without work for six months or longer as of the fourth quarter of 2011, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. Likewise, more than 35% of the unemployed in the Great Lakes region and 34% of the unemployed on the West Coast had been without work for this long.
For each of these three regions, that means more than 3% of the total labor force now qualifies as being among the long-term unemployed, and even that may be a low estimate. As MainStreet has previously reported, many discouraged workers across the country have dropped out of the labor market after failing to find work for too long and are not counted in this unemployment data.
The danger of being out of the workforce for so long is that those workers will be less competitive for jobs in the labor market as their skills become less relevant to new jobs and potential employers grow wary of the long gap since their last job. States in these regions may also experience a greater drain on their resources due to lost tax revenue and the need to support these long-term jobless workers with unemployment benefits and other resources.
Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.