07/23/2010 12:39 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Long-Term Unemployment: Lost Income, Lost Friends, Loss Of Self Respect

Long-term unemployment has a disproportionate impact on layoff victims compared with shorter spells of joblessness.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 44 percent of people out of work for six months or longer said unemployment had led to "major changes" in their lives, compared with 31 percent of people jobless for less than six months. 43 percent of long-term unemployed said they lost contact with close friends, and 38 percent said they lost some self-respect.

"Few significant differences are evident between workers who were unemployed less than
three months and those who were jobless for three to five months," the report says. "But among those unemployed for six months or longer, experiences with emotional problems increased dramatically."

The long-term unemployed account for 46 percent of the 14.6 million unemployed. The average duration of joblessness has increased more dramatically in this recession than at any time since the government started tracking the workforce.

These are precisely the folks Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress decided this year were not worth helping if doing so added to the deficit. Federally-funded extended unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless lapsed at the end of May when Congress failed to reauthorize them as Republicans in the Senate, joined by Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, insisted that the $33 billion cost be offset by taking a chunk of money from the 2009 stimulus bill.

It's an unprecedented demand: Historically, federally-funded benefits are not "paid for," in budget-speak, since unemployment insurance funds itself with payroll taxes. On the occasions Congress has used offsets, tax hikes (not spending cuts) have been the way.

This week Senate Democrats finally managed to break the Republican filibuster, and President Obama signed legislation reauthorizing the benefits through November. The people affected will be given lump-sum payments in the amount they would have received during the month-and-a-half delay, though it's not clear how quickly the money will be sent out to the 2.5 million people affected by the lapse.