Nearly 15 million Americans are jobless, and the number is widely expected to remain high even as the economy slowly begins to recover. Part of the problem many of the unemployed face: the very fact that they have been out of work a long time.and further on...
One thing this kind of move affects is federal spending. Last year, the Social Security Administration paid out about $106 billion in disability benefits, equal to nearly 4% of the federal budget. The payout was up about a third from four years earlier.
The agency projects it will receive roughly a million more disability applications from 2009 through 2011 than it would have without the recession, says Stephen Goss, its chief actuary. If acceptance rates stay the same, this would add roughly 500,000 more people to the rolls by the end of 2011.
So far, much of the government's response to long-term unemployment has been to extend jobless benefits, a support that keeps workers off the streets but can lead some to languish in unemployment instead of searching for work as if it were a full-time job.
The federal government extended the standard 26 weeks of benefits by 20 weeks, and to as much as a total of 79 weeks for some workers in high-unemployment states.
And there's even a picture: