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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson August 31, 2010

Donna Brazile says 45 percent of unemployed have been jobless for at least six months

In a discussion of the economy during the Aug. 29, 2010, edition of ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile addressed the plight of the long-term unemployed.

She said that "45 percent of those who've been unemployed, they've been unemployed for six months or longer. They desperately need the skills and the tools to get back into the workplace."

We thought we'd check to see if Brazile was right.

We turned to the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal agency that calculates the national unemployment rate as well as a host of other labor-related statistics.

We found two relevant numbers that are published monthly: the seasonally adjusted number of unemployed Americans age 16 and over, and the subset of that group that has been unemployed for at least 27 weeks, or a little over six months. We divided the second number by the first for each month of the Obama presidency -- January 2009 to July 2010. That produced the percentage at any given time of all unemployed workers who have been unemployed for more than six months.

Brazile is on solid ground when assessing the past three months. The percentage of unemployed workers who were jobless for more than six months was 45 percent in May 2010, 46 percent in June 2010 and 45 percent in July 2010.

But for most of the Obama presidency, the ratio was lower. It climbed slowly, starting at 23 percent in January 2009. It hit 30 percent in June 2009 and 40 percent in December 2009 before cracking 45 percent in May 2010.

Brazile's only error here was to use the wrong verb tense. The way she phrased it suggested that 45 percent of those who have been unemployed during the current recession were unemployed for at least six months. That's actually been true only for the past three months -- that is, 17 months into the Obama presidency and 32 months into the recession. A more accurate way of phrasing it would have been "45 percent of those who are now unemployed, they've been unemployed for six months or longer."

Of course, Brazile's grammatical slip-up should not undercut the seriousness of the economic statistic she's citing. Her point about the long-term unemployed is generally accurate even if her encapsulation of it is a little misleading. On balance, then, we rate her statement Mostly True.

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Our Sources

Donna Brazile, comments on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Aug. 29, 2010

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (main search page), accessed Aug. 31, 2010

E-mail interview with Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, Aug. 31, 2010

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Donna Brazile says 45 percent of unemployed have been jobless for at least six months

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