Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

36.9 percent of unemployed jobless 27 weeks or more as pandemic continues, November 2020

December 09, 2020

The United States declared a national emergency in March 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment rose by 1.4 million in March, with a large increase in the number of newly unemployed—that is, those unemployed for less than 5 weeks. Prior to the pandemic, those unemployed less than 5 weeks accounted for roughly one-third of the total unemployed, but this share increased to nearly one-half in March. In the months that followed, changes in the duration of joblessness reflected the evolving effects of the pandemic on the labor market.

Number of unemployed by duration of unemployment, January 2019–November 2020, seasonally adjusted
Month Number of unemployed Percent distribution
Total unemployed,
any duration
Less than 5 weeks 5 to 14 weeks 15 to 26 weeks 27 weeks and over Less than 5 weeks 5 to 14 weeks 15 to 26 weeks 27 weeks and over

Jan 2019

6,516,000 2,319,000 1,999,000 898,000 1,259,000 35.8% 30.9% 13.9% 19.4%

Feb 2019

6,181,000 2,169,000 1,809,000 928,000 1,279,000 35.1 29.3 15.0 20.7

Mar 2019

6,194,000 2,116,000 1,812,000 936,000 1,305,000 34.3 29.4 15.2 21.2

Apr 2019

5,850,000 1,906,000 1,835,000 860,000 1,227,000 32.7 31.5 14.8 21.1

May 2019

5,938,000 2,158,000 1,572,000 822,000 1,298,000 36.9 26.9 14.0 22.2

Jun 2019

5,985,000 1,949,000 1,832,000 776,000 1,413,000 32.6 30.7 13.0 23.7

Jul 2019

6,027,000 2,222,000 1,795,000 909,000 1,170,000 36.4 29.5 14.9 19.2

Aug 2019

5,999,000 2,218,000 1,746,000 831,000 1,251,000 36.7 28.9 13.7 20.7

Sep 2019

5,753,000 1,869,000 1,778,000 806,000 1,318,000 32.4 30.8 14.0 22.8

Oct 2019

5,857,000 1,978,000 1,747,000 884,000 1,259,000 33.7 29.8 15.1 21.5

Nov 2019

5,811,000 2,026,000 1,753,000 865,000 1,219,000 34.6 29.9 14.7 20.8

Dec 2019

5,753,000 2,065,000 1,730,000 812,000 1,186,000 35.6 29.9 14.0 20.5

Jan 2020

5,892,000 2,059,000 1,755,000 887,000 1,166,000 35.1 29.9 15.1 19.9

Feb 2020

5,787,000 2,013,000 1,803,000 825,000 1,102,000 35.1 31.4 14.4 19.2

Mar 2020

7,140,000 3,542,000 1,794,000 808,000 1,164,000 48.5 24.5 11.1 15.9

Apr 2020

23,078,000 14,283,000 7,004,000 833,000 939,000 61.9 30.4 3.6 4.1

May 2020

20,985,000 3,875,000 14,814,000 1,078,000 1,164,000 18.5 70.8 5.2 5.6

Jun 2020

17,750,000 2,838,000 11,496,000 1,903,000 1,391,000 16.1 65.2 10.8 7.9

Jul 2020

16,338,000 3,202,000 5,169,000 6,484,000 1,501,000 19.6 31.6 39.6 9.2

Aug 2020

13,550,000 2,281,000 3,134,000 6,517,000 1,624,000 16.8 23.1 48.1 12.0

Sep 2020

12,580,000 2,552,000 2,732,000 4,918,000 2,405,000 20.2 21.7 39.0 19.1

Oct 2020

11,061,000 2,500,000 2,275,000 2,617,000 3,556,000 22.8 20.8 23.9 32.5

Nov 2020

10,735,000 2,467,000 2,413,000 1,857,000 3,941,000 23.1 22.6 17.4 36.9

Note: Detail for the seasonally adjusted data will not necessarily sum to total because of the independent seasonal adjustment of the duration groups.

For instance, in April 2020, the share of the unemployed who were unemployed for less than 5 weeks increased to 61.9 percent, and those unemployed for 5 to 14 weeks grew to 30.4 percent. Because of the large and rapid influx of newly unemployed people, the long-term unemployed—those looking for work for 27 weeks or more—initially accounted for a declining share of the total unemployed, representing only 4.1 percent of the total unemployed in April, the smallest share since 1953.

The total number of unemployed persons began to decrease in May, when economic activity in many areas resumed on a limited basis. Despite this improvement in unemployment, the overwhelming majority of the unemployed—70.8 percent—had by that time been unemployed for 5 to 14 weeks, as much of the initial wave of unemployment remained without work and moved into longer duration categories.

Even though total unemployment continued to decline in June and July, the composition of unemployment still shifted to longer durations. By July, the largest share of the unemployed, at 39.6 percent, were unemployed for 15 to 26 weeks. In September, 6 months after the emergency declaration, the share unemployed for 27 weeks or longer was growing rapidly. By November, the long-term unemployed accounted for the largest share of the unemployed at 36.9 percent.

These data are from the Current Population Survey and are seasonally adjusted. For more information, see "The Employment Situation — November 2020" and the charts on employment and unemployment.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, 36.9 percent of unemployed jobless 27 weeks or more as pandemic continues, November 2020 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/36-point-9-percent-of-unemployed-jobless-27-weeks-or-more-as-pandemic-continues-november-2020.htm (visited December 01, 2021).

OF INTEREST
spotlight

Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics

triangle