February 23, 1999
Of the 6.2 million people who were unemployed in the average month of 1998, about 42 percent had been unemployed for less than 5 weeks, slightly more than 31 percent were out of work for 5 to 14 weeks, and 26 percent were "long-term" unemployed—workers out for 15 weeks or more. The median duration of unemployment fell from 8.0 weeks to 6.7 weeks.
From 1997 to 1998, the share of worker’s experiencing long-term unemployment dropped by 4.2 percentage points, about the same amount as the 4.5-point increase in the share of worker’s in short-term unemployment spells. Within the long-term unemployment category, 2-1/2 percentage points—about 60 percent—of the decline was among workers jobless for 15 to 26 weeks. The remainder was among those unemployed for 27 weeks or more.
These data on the duration of unemployment are produced by the Current Population Survey. More information can be found in table 30 of the January 1999 edition of Employment and Earnings. The data in this article are 1997 and 1998 annual averages of the duration of spells of unemployment still in progress at the time of the survey.