SACRAMENTO, Calif. _ To a degree not seen in recent recessions, unemployment has become a drawn-out affair.
About 6.7 million Americans have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks, including nearly 880,000 Californians. The ranks of the state's long-term unemployed more than doubled in the past year and now account for about 40 percent of all those out of work, according to the Employment Development Department.
Kathy Gaschk, 51, is one of many caught by surprise at how hard it has been to find a job. The Sacramento woman endured layoffs during the recession of the early 1990s and also the one in 2001, but never for more than six months. This time she's at one year and counting since losing her job at The Golden 1 Credit Union last May.
"This is different than anything I've ever seen in my life," she said.
EDD figures confirm her observation. During the 1990s and 2001 recessions, there were never more than 350,000 people out of work that long in California _ less than 40 percent of the current total. Department records don't go back further than that.
With unemployment at 12.6 percent in California, the problem won't disappear soon even though employers are starting to hire again.
"The explosion in long-term unemployment is just reflective of how tough it is," said Michael Bernick, a former EDD director and a research fellow at the Milken Institute. He notes that the number of long-term unemployed Californians is equivalent to the population of San Francisco.
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