Layoffs during the Great Recession were unusually concentrated. Whereas in previous recessions a large swatch of American workers churned in and out of unemployment, this time around the ax fell on relatively few Americans. And as the economy has marched onward, this smaller group of workers has been left further and further behind.
Some of those people had been structurally displaced — that is, they were in occupations or industries that were disappearing more permanently, or they were less productive workers to begin with — and that’s why it’s so hard for them to get new work. But for many Americans, unemployment begets unemployment. The longer a person is out of work, the less likely he is to find new work in the coming few weeks, whether because of stigma, less intensive searching, skill deterioration or other factors.
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