Last year, 3.9 million Americans ran out of unemployment insurance benefits, according to a new analysis provided to HuffPost by the National Employment Law Project.
Those 3.9 million are not necessarily still unemployed, and not all of them are necessarily "99ers" -- people who exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of benefits currently available in 25 states -- but the number offers a dramatic reminder that the longest-ever unemployment lifeline is still not long enough for some Americans to climb out of the deepest jobs hole since the Great Depression.
"These numbers demonstrate the grave nature of the long-term unemployment crisis and should lead all lawmakers to realize that it is imperative to put partisan fights aside and concentrate on job-creation efforts that are targeted to the longest of the long-term unemployed," NELP lobbyist Judy Conti said.
The Congressional Research Service has estimated that as of October, roughly 1.4 million Americans have been unemployed for 99 weeks or longer, a tenfold increase from three years ago.
In December, the White House estimated that another 4 million would exhaust their unemployment benefits during the course of 2011.
The federal government provides up to 73 weeks of benefits for workers in the hardest-hit states who exhaust the standard 26 weeks of state benefits. The average unemployment spell now lasts 36.9 weeks, and those who remain out of work longer than that are at serious risk of getting stuck.
Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to give the long-term unemployed in all states an additional 14 weeks of benefits, but that measure faces steep odds in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
For those who run out of unemployment benefits, not much help is available besides Social Security, food stamps or charity. Rhonda Taylor, a 42-year-old 99er who traveled to Washington from Rhode Island this week to lobby Congress for additional benefits, told HuffPost on Wednesday that her family of five is getting by on little more than $600 a month from her son's Social Security disability benefits. She said her unemployment insurance ran out in March after she lost her IT job in 2008.
Taylor said life since the cutoff has been "awful" and "devastating."
Patty DiMucci of Cary, N.C., told HuffPost this week she's been out of work since losing her job as a director of event planning for a beauty products retailer in March 2009. She said her unemployment benefits will run out this month.
"This is the first time in my career I'm struggling to find a job," said DiMucci, 42. "I've applied for hundreds of jobs. The rejection takes its toll on you -- that is, when you even get a response from a company."
She's worried that the big employment gap on her resume is itself an obstacle to finding new work. "Am I deemed unemployable?" she asked.
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