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Expand chart
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of people considered long-term unemployed has made a worrying bounce in recent months, as Friday's jobs report showed 3.8 million people had lost their jobs permanently in September.

Why it matters: That's almost twice as many as at the height of the pandemic in April.

What's happening: When the first waves of layoffs hit in March and April, most of the newly unemployed believed their job losses would be temporary (nearly eight in 10, according to the April nonfarm payrolls report) and reported they were not looking for work.

  • The flood of Americans who had just been laid off pushed the percentage of people who had been unemployed for at least 27 weeks to 4.1%, the lowest the rate has been since December 1953.
  • But as the pandemic has raged on and the economy has begun to unravel, more people have been sitting on the sidelines for longer.
  • Even with an additional 11 million people unemployed than in February, the percentage of unemployed people who have been without a job for more than six months returned to the same level it was at in February.

What's next: As of September, 2.4 million people had been out of work for 27 weeks or more and 4.8 million more had been unemployed for between 15 and 26 weeks.

  • Without a mass surge of hiring significantly above the levels seen in September (or even in August), the "tsunami" of unemployment economists warned me about in early August is poised to hit in the next couple months.
  • Many of those people could be without unemployment benefits when pandemic assistance programs expire at the end of the year.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 8, 2021 - Podcasts

America’s lethargic labor market

As the pandemic strengthens, America's labor market weakens, based on the latest monthly jobs report that showed a loss of 140,000 nonfarm payrolls.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the numbers, what they really mean and where things head next with Axios business reporters Courtenay Brown and Felix Salmon.

S.C. governor orders end to federal COVID-related unemployment benefits

Photo: Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Thursday ordered the termination of the state's participation in all federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs.

Driving the news: McMaster cited labor shortages, but some experts say it's the job climate and not unemployment benefits that is determining the pace at which people are returning to work.

Dave Lawler, author of World
8 mins ago - World

Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration surprised the world last night by coming out in favor of waiving patents for coronavirus vaccines — but Europe is divided on the issue.

What they're saying: European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said Brussels would be willing to discuss it; French President Emmanuel Macron said he backed the U.S. position, but a German government spokesman said the proposal would cause "severe complications" for vaccine production.