As Lawmakers Move Toward Stimulus Deal, 3.9 Million Americans Are Long-Term Unemployed

As lawmakers in Washington, D.C. crawled toward a second COVID-19 stimulus bill on Friday, new data revealed that a further 385,000 Americans became long-term unemployed in November, building pressure for another round of financial relief.

According to the latest jobs report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning, the number of Americans out of work for 27 weeks or more has reached 3.9 million. The group now accounts for more than a third (36.9 percent) of all those who are unemployed.

However, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 245,000 at the same time, bringing the overall U.S. unemployment rate down to 6.7 percent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said notable job increases had taken place in the transport, warehousing, professional and health care sectors, while employment in government and retail trade slipped on last month.

Unemployment line in Kentucky
Hundreds of unemployed Kentucky residents wait in long lines outside the Kentucky Career Center for help with their unemployment claims on June 19 in Frankfort, Kentucky. John Sommers II/Getty Images

Reacting to the latest job report, Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, said: "With safe and effective vaccines on the way, we know brighter days are ahead. Unfortunately for now with a hamstrung economy and raging pandemic, we're effectively stuck in the midst of winter."

When the federal bureau unveiled the October jobs report, it showed that nonfarm employment rose by 638,000 in October, bringing the unemployment rate down by one percentage point as long-term unemployment rose by 1.2 million.

The employment numbers for November were released as Democrats and Republicans moved closer to reaching a deal on the outline of the next COVID-19 stimulus package, with Democratic leaders putting their weight behind a bipartisan plan much smaller than the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act they originally favored.

Under the terms of the $908 billion compromise deal proposed by nine senators is an offer of $300 a week in federal jobless benefit for 18 weeks, as well as emergency funding for small businesses impacted by coronavirus shutdowns and restrictions.

Releasing a joint statement on Wednesday, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that they would support the package "in the spirit of compromise," and encouraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to come to the table.

"Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement," the lawmakers said. "With the imminent availability of the vaccine, it is important for there to be additional funding for distribution to take the vaccine to vaccination.

"In light of the urgency of meeting the needs of the American people and the hope that the vaccine presents, it's time for Leader McConnell to sit down with Democrats to finally begin a true, bipartisan effort to meet the needs of the country."

McConnell told the Senate floor on Thursday that there had been "a few hopeful signs" of a deal being reached, and added that the process was heading in the "right direction" following the Democratic compromise.