The labor market ended 2016 on a positive note. The unemployment rate is low at 4.7%. Employers are increasing wages to snag fewer available workers. That all sounds good, at least until you ask about 25% of Americans out of work... The number of people jobless six months or more may have fallen by 25,000 to 1.8 million in December and is down from 6.8 million in 2010. Yet they still represent a quarter of all those unemployed, about the same as a year ago and up from 18% before the recession began in late 2007.

... "It used to be jobs found me," says Brown, 46, who lives in Wheaton, Ill. "The world has definitely changed." He has learned, for example, that his diverse work history, which includes overseeing marketing, strategy, and mergers and acquisitions, is viewed as a negative by the many firms that seek in-depth experience in specific areas... Many businesses remain locked in a post-recession mindset ingrained by the downturn's severity and that's adding up to long-term frustration for workers on the sidelines for at least six months.


Carl Van Horn, director of the Heidrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, rattles off the roadblocks faced by the long-term unemployed including having to explain large gaps on a resume and age discrimination. In 2015, about 36% of the long-term unemployed were 55 or older, Labor Department figures show. And some have seen their skills atrophy or have succumbed to depression, alcoholism or drug abuse, Van Horn says.

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