Q&A: what is long-term unemployment? With employability tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 September 2022 | Published 30 November 2021

Updated 28 September 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Long-term unemployment is when an individual has been out of the workforce for six months or more. This can be a chronic issue or a one-off, depending on economic conditions and overall societal stability. Regardless of your status in the workforce, it's important to understand the effects of long-term unemployment and what it can mean for you. In this article, we answer common questions about long-term unemployment, list things you can do to help with your employability and how you can receive help with your employment status.

What is long-term unemployment?

The answer to 'what is long-term unemployment?' is that it's defined as being out of work for six months or more whilst actively seeking a job. There are many reasons an individual might be unemployed for a lengthy period of time, such as economic downturn or social and health factors. Long-term unemployment affects many individuals across all backgrounds and socioeconomic classes during widespread crises, such as worldwide pandemics or financial crashes.

Related: What to do when you lose your job (with tips)

What are the different types of long-term unemployment?

There are two main types of long-term unemployment:

Cyclical unemployment

Cyclical unemployment occurs when there's an economic downturn or recession. During these times, many businesses may lay off employees to restructure their finances in an attempt to cope with less revenue. Cyclical unemployment could also happen because of other global economical or health crises.

Cyclical unemployment can be difficult to endure, as there may not be much you can do to alleviate yourself from the position you're in. When there is a major economic downturn, society experiences a recession or depression that affects whole job markets but boosts others. Sometimes, it's not possible to transfer your profession to one that is unaffected by a recession, which compounds issues even further. The best solution to cyclical unemployment is to rely on government schemes, benefits and patience.

Related: How to explain employment gaps due to COVID-19

Structural unemployment

Structural unemployment happens when an individual's skill set is not suitable for the current job market or opening they're applying for. Individuals have more opportunities to alleviate the pressures of structural unemployment by undergoing specialist training, applying for apprenticeships or internships and learning more job-specific skills. There are more opportunities to fill in employment gaps with structural unemployment as the status of employment remains unaffected by the economy like cyclical unemployment.

There are government schemes and programmes that help individuals affected by structural unemployment. Enrolling in these programmes helps you gain relevant education and work experience for specialist jobs. These jobs are typically in the logistics, construction or manufacturing sectors. You can also find government programmes for white-collar jobs where you can advance in your career path and acquire more managerial roles.

What are the effects of long-term unemployment?

Being unemployed can have a major effect on one's life, and when one stays unemployed for a significant period of time, it can be potentially devastating. The most pressing issues those who struggle with long-term unemployment face are financial worries. Without a stable income, you might not be able to provide for your family, which means you may take drastic measures to ensure you have some financial stability, such as selling your home or other assets to stay solvent.

Applying for hundreds of jobs and getting rejected or not receiving a response can be disheartening and wear down on your emotions. Long-term unemployment can have a significant cascading effect on all aspects of your life from a social, emotional and financial aspect. It can also put a significant strain on not only your life but those in your immediate network. While you may have got laid off for reasons outside of your control, learning how to cope and minimise damages is crucial.

4 ideas to boost your employability

While unemployment may happen for reasons outside of one's control, there are a few things you can do to help increase your chances of being employed:

1. Learn a new or supplementary skill

A prolonged period of unemployment is the perfect time to develop new job-specific skills. A lack of applicable skills for an industry causes structural unemployment, so taking your time to apply for a course or learn a subject online can help with your job searches. The Internet is the perfect resource for researching skills or courses and provides plenty of opportunities to learn for free. It also looks more impressive during job applications if you can highlight that you've been productive during your unemployment and are someone who always thinks ahead. These traits can prove attractive to employers.

2. Update your CV

A strong CV is one of the most important assets you can have when applying for jobs. A good CV highlights your strengths and skills for your potential employer. You may have garnered valuable work experience in previous jobs or learned something new since you last wrote your CV. Updating your CV can help put your career in perspective so you can recalibrate and improve your CV to fit you better.

If you struggle with CV writing, there are many online resources to help you with this process. You can see templates and examples of CVs that perform well in the industries you're applying for or you could learn some general tips and tricks. There are even online CV makers that you can explore to see if they're right for you, but some of them require payment to access premium features. As an alternative, you can find preloaded templates on document reader applications.

Related: What to include in your CV

3. Build a professional social media profile

A well-written professional social media profile can help employers notice you. By being active and making connections on any form of social media, you're exposing yourself to people you might work with in the future. Highlighting your skills, interests and accomplishments on these platforms is like an online CV that can help you secure a job.

4. Re-strategise your personal budget

While you endure this period of long-term unemployment, recalibrating your budget is crucial. Managing money on a reduced income can be challenging, so developing a budget for your situation may improve your quality of life greatly. To do this, you can start by calculating monthly income and expenses. Once you have a clear idea of your finances, it becomes easier to cut costs in areas you might not have noticed before.

How to receive help with long-term unemployment

Here are a few steps you can follow to alleviate the pressures of long-term unemployment:

1. Seek a jobseeker's allowance

A jobseeker's allowance is a government initiative to support those who are unemployed but actively looking for work. If you're eligible, you can receive up to £74.70 a week. You're required to abide by your 'Claimant Commitment', which is an agreement that you're willing to continue looking for work either at a Job Centre or otherwise. This initiative is a good way to introduce a bit more financial stability as you attempt to re-enter the workforce.

Related: When To Claim Unemployment Benefits

2. Accept part-time work

Part-time work is in constant high demand. Turnover in these positions can be high, as we often see these jobs as temporary solutions. Part-time jobs also frequently require little work experience and often provide training. If you're going through a period of unemployment where you're learning new skills and tailoring your CV, temporary part-time work can help alleviate financial stress.

3. Consider freelancing

If you have skills that translate well to a freelance role, such as copywriting, digital design and internet-based jobs, then there are many online freelancer marketplaces you can advertise your services on. Just like a CV, you highlight your skills, showcase your portfolio and publish recommendations. This can also turn into your professional profile as you gather clients and build a body of work.

Related: 10 jobs you can do from home

4. Enquire about government schemes

The government offers a number of programmes for those long who've been unemployed for a while. Some government schemes include an increased focus on apprenticeships and traineeships to develop relevant work experience or training. The Sector-based Work Academy Programme (SWAP) is there to help applicants secure jobs in industries such as care, construction or logistics. A bit of online research can help you discover many government programmes that may apply to you and can help you get a new job.

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