NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Are The Unemployed?

February 5, 2002

Around 8.3 million people in the United States were unemployed in December 2001, when the unemployment rate reached 5.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But who are the unemployed? Middle-aged workers? Former welfare recipients who were last hired and first to be laid off? Or high-tech industry workers let go due to the economic slowdown?

The unemployed in America are generally young, childless and lack a post-secondary education, according to an analysis by the Employment Policy Foundation (EPF) of December 2001 Current Population Survey data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • More than 44 percent of the unemployed are under 30.
  • Seventy percent of the unemployed have no children under 18; 50 percent have never been a parent; and only 34 percent are heads of families.
  • Half -- 50.1 percent -- are either children, other family relatives or single people living on their own.

Sixty-two percent of the unemployed have no education or training beyond high school, and about half of the unemployed live in households where the annual total household income in 2001 was less than $30,000.

The recession began in March 2001, according to dating by the National Bureau of Economic Analysis. For those unemployed in December 2001, the median duration of unemployment was 8.2 weeks. About 37 percent had been looking for jobs only five weeks or less, while 13.7 percent looked for more than 26 weeks, the time period when regular unemployment benefits end.

Source: News Release, "Who Are the Unemployed?" January 16, 2002, Employment Policy Foundation, 1015 15th Street, N.W., Suite 1200, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 789-8685.


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