A new study released by the census followed a group of people over several years (2004 through 2007) to compare their “spells” of unemployment. A spell of unemployment is defined as a period of a month or more that the person was unemployed, for whatever reason.
The study found that younger workers had more frequent but shorter spells and that workers in the age range 45 to 54 had the longest. The length of the spells was longer for more highly educated and for non-white workers. Women were more likely to experience periods of unemployment, but their spells were no longer than that of men.
The study also looked at whether people receiving unemployment benefits were more likely to be unemployed longer; apparently some policymakers believe that the availability of unemployment insurance acts as a disincentive to finding work. The length of the spell of unemployment was several weeks longer among those receiving the benefits. The study did not draw any conclusions from this difference, stating that it may be related to other factors. More interesting was the fact that only 20% of the individuals followed did receive unemployment benefits.