Annie Lowrey and Catherine Rampell have a report in the New York Times on the scale of the long-term unemployment challenge:
Statistics suggested that the long-term unemployment problem had begun to recede. The number of workers who reported actively seeking a job for more than six months fell to 4.8 million from 6.2 million in the past year, according to government data. The proportion of jobless workers who counted as long-term unemployed fell to 40 percent from its peak of 45.5 percent in March 2011.
But it remains a bleak situation. About 800,000 workers want a job but have simply given up looking, and so are no longer even counted as unemployed. About 1.7 million people have joined the disability rolls since the recession began at the end of 2007, an increase of 24 percent, as workers use the disability program as a backdoor safety net when their unemployment insurance runs out. After searching for a new position for a year, a worker trying to regain employment finds that his chance to do so in the coming month falls below 10 percent. [Emphasis added]
SSDI reform is a more important issue than is commonly understood, but of course a more robust labor market would do a great deal to reduce the expansion of the disability rolls.