Department of Numbers

Unemployment Duration

Unemployment duration — the length of time spent unemployed — tells us something about how difficult it is for out of work persons to reenter the world of employment. As of March 2014, the average length of unemployment was 35.6 weeks.

Average and Median Unemployment Duration

This is simply the average and median duration of unemployment for workers. The definition of unemployment for each is the same as the standard headline unemployment (i.e. U-3).

Unemployment Duration March 2014 Month/Month
(Weeks)
Year/Year
(Weeks)
Average 35.6 wks -1.5 -1.4
Median 16.3 wks -0.1 -1.8

Unemployment Duration: Average, Median

Chart of average and median duration of unemployment

Note: Recessions shown in gray

Percent of Unemployed by Duration of Unemployment

These two metrics help us divide the unemployed into groups that have been unemployed for short and long periods. An increasing fraction unemployed persons who have been looking for work for more than 15 weeks (roughly 3.5 months) is generally regarded as a sign of a more difficult labor market.

Unemployment Duration March 2014
Fraction of Unemployed
Month/Month
(Points)
Year/Year
(Points)
Under 15 Weeks 48.2% +0.7 +2.5
15+ Weeks 51.8% -0.7 -2.5

Fraction of Unemployed by Duration of Unemployment: Under 15 Weeks, 15+ Weeks

Chart of fraction of unemployed who are out of work for less than 15 weeks and more than 15 weeks

Percent of Unemployed by Duration of Unemployment (More Granular)

This is the same metric as above just divided into more granular segments.

Unemployment Duration March 2014
Fraction of Unemployed
Month/Month
(Points)
Year/Year
(Points)
Under 5 Weeks 23.5% +0.7 +2.1
5-14 Weeks 24.7% 0.0 +0.4
15-26 Weeks 16.0% +0.5 +0.8
27+ Weeks 35.8% -1.2 -3.3

Fraction of Unemployed by Duration of Unemployment: Under 5 Weeks, 5-14 Weeks, 15-26 Weeks, 27+ Weeks

Chart of fraction of unemployed by length of unemployment

Note: Sorry, those last two charts should really be area charts. It's on the todo list...