The decline in this figure, which currently accounts for nearly 32.8 percent of total unemployment, was hailed by analysts as a positive sign that the U.S. economy is rebounding and that more Americans are being put back to work.
And although it's true that parts of latest jobs report are heartening, and there have definitely been improvements to the economy since the financial collapse in 2007, there appears to be more to the story.
First, it's important to note that when the federal government refers to long-term unemployment, it means Americans who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more.
This is where we get into a tricky area, according to FiveThirtyEight.
“The government uses a relatively narrow definition of unemployment that includes only people who are actively looking for work,” the report notes. “That means unemployment can fall for good reasons (because people are finding jobs) or bad ones (because they’re giving up looking). The recent decline in long-term unemployment is being driven by the bad reasons.”
As you can see in the above chart, the long-term unemployed have “seen almost no gains.”
“Only about 11 percent of the long-term jobless find jobs each month, little better than in the depths of the recession. Moreover, even those who do find jobs are often able to find only part-time or short-term work,” the report notes.
But if they're not finding jobs, what are the long-term unemployed doing?
Well, according to FiveThirtyEight, they're dropping out of the labor force altogether.
“[T]he share of the long-term jobless who are giving up their job searches has been rising steadily, even as the job-finding rate has remained largely flat,” the report notes, adding that the following chart doesn't include the 50 percent who remain unemployed.
Simply put, long-term unemployment is falling, but “for all the wrong reasons.”