WASHINGTON -- Older workers are less likely to lose their jobs than younger workers, but once they do, they're more than twice as likely to be out of work for 99 weeks or longer.
Among jobless workers younger than 35, 8.1 percent had been out of work for 99 weeks. But 16.3 percent of jobless workers older than 45 have been out of work that long, according to a new report from Gerald Mayer, a labor analyst with the Congressional Research Service. Mayer used Census Bureau data from July 2010 to July 2011.
More than 2 million people have passed the 99 week mark, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Since 2009, 99 weeks has been the cutoff point for unemployment insurance in states with high unemployment rates (There are currently 21 states where unemployed workers are eligible for 99 weeks. Starting next year, the jobless will be eligible for just 26 weeks of benefits unless Congress acts to reauthorize the extended federal assistance.)
Conservatives have argued that the extended benefits have contributed significantly to the rise in long-term unemployment, a predicament now facing a record 6 million people. But the latest research shows that extended benefits don't turn the jobless into slackers.
Another startling finding from Mayer's report is that even though workers without college education were more likely to be unemployed, jobless workers with bachelor's degrees were no less likely to become 99ers than jobless workers with just high school diplomas. Ninety-niners were more likely to be married and to belong to a minority group.
Weekly claims for unemployment benefits have remained stubbornly high, contributing to worry among economists that the U.S. may be on the brink of another recession. Mayer concluded that there's no telling whether the number of 99ers will rise or fall.
"On the one hand, the number of monthly layoffs has fallen since the official end of the 2007-2009 recession," he wrote. "On the other hand, both the number of jobs and of job openings have increased. But, the numbers have not returned to their pre-recession levels. In addition, as employers hire new workers, those who have been unemployed the longest may be among the last to be hired."
ClickHERE to download a PDF of the report.
Arthur Delaney is the author of "A People's History of the Great Recession," HuffPost's first e-book.