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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nearly 4 million Americans have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer — trapped in a vicious cycle that makes it harder to get back to work.

The big picture: Long-term unemployment during a pandemic is a double whammy. Millions are experiencing food and housing insecurity and lack health care when they need it most.

What's happening: "The troubling amount of long-term unemployment and its continuing rise is dangerous for the U.S. labor market," says Nick Bunker, an economist at the jobs site Indeed. "A fast labor market recovery will help alleviate these concerns, but that bounce back is still a ways away and dependent on controlling the coronavirus."

  • The number of Americans experiencing long-term unemployment — around 4 million — is far from the worst of the Great Recession, when long-term unemployment reached 7 million.
  • But it's remarkable considering where the U.S. was before the pandemic. The long-term unemployment rate is 2.5%, which is comparable to the 3.5% overall unemployment rate in January 2020, Bunker notes.

Why it matters: Studies have shown that long-term unemployment hurts workers' physical and mental health, reports Bloomberg. And the longer someone is unemployed, the harder it is for that person to get another job — let alone another job at the same pay level.

Job-seeking is even more exhausting during a pandemic, says Tim Classen, an economist at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University in Chicago.

  • To start, there are fewer jobs out there than there are unemployed people.
  • On top of that, people may be attempting to juggle job-hunting with parenting kids who are learning remotely.
  • Not everyone is comfortable interviewing over video calls, and not everyone has the broadband access required to even attend those interviews.

"The fluctuations in uncertainty play into this, too," Classen says. Millions of restaurant workers, flight attendants, retail workers and more aren't sure when the pandemic will end — or if their employers will even survive it.

There's a bit of a silver lining, though.

  • While losing a job is a traumatic event and can really chip away at someone's sense of self-worth, it can also be easier to bear if millions are going through the same thing. Job loss doesn't feel as personal in a pandemic, says Classen.
  • "There’s a sense of, 'Yeah, I’m depressed, and I’ve lost my job, but I’m not alone in my suffering,'" he says. "Maybe in some way that tempers it."

Go deeper

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

Cuomo: "I am not going to resign"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized Wednesday for acting in a way that made women feel "uncomfortable," but insisted that he has "never touched anyone inappropriately" and said he will not resign.

Driving the news: Cuomo reiterated in his first public appearance since sexual harassment allegations surfaced that he will fully cooperate with a team of independent investigators appointed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, but suggested that demands for his resignation from were simply "politics."

Facebook to lift political ad ban imposed after November election

Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook will finally allow advertisers to resume running political and social issue ads in the U.S. on Thursday, according to a company update.

The big picture: Facebook and rival Google instituted political ad bans to slow the spread of misinformation and curb confusion around the presidential election and its aftermath.