The greatest concern in the labor market now aren't those who recently lost their jobs, but the persistently large number out of work for months or years, and those stuck in low-paying and part-time jobs. At the same time, a larger portion of those newly laid off isn't seeking benefits.


"This late into a very slow recovery you have a sizable population of unemployed people that are less likely to establish eligibility for benefits," Ms. McKenna said. In past cycles, even those workers who didn't find long-term jobs would have landed shorter-term work that subsequently allowed them to again seek for benefits.


Elevated numbers of long-term unemployed and workers stuck in part-time jobs, but who want full-time work, is a factor that has restrained wage growth during the six-and-half year old expansion. Even with the unemployment rate at 5% last month, employers may not have to raise wages because there are many Americans on the sidelines of the workforce, but who would take the right opportunity.

Confusion over eligibility is the top reason laid-off workers don't seek benefits, Ms. McKenna said. But a lower take up rate recently could suggest reluctance toward accepting government aid, which had faded somewhat during the recession. It might also indicate less of a focus on the part of employers, unions and governments to inform laid-off workers about the benefit application process.

There seems to be some real confused reading of statistics here. The main issue is probably just that there are way more discouraged workers who are out of the work force; that is why both "long term unemployed" and new unemployment claims are down, in-workforce people who believe themselves short-term unemployed yet are not drawing unemployment benefits is probably a (distant) secondary factor.

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