The current rate of unemployment is around 7.5 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, down from the 10 percent recessional peak in 2009.
Still, while the job picture is improving for some, the long-term unemployed aren't so lucky. That's because as the jobless rate improves, the federal government—which funds much of the unemployment benefit extensions—cuts back spending for benefits.
Congress has traditionally extended unemployment benefits in times of recession. In 2010 and 2011, benefits in some states reached 99 weeks of combined state and federal benefits—the highest extension on record.
But less than half of the 11.7 million unemployed in April received state or federal benefits, according to the Labor Department.
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Any current extended benefits will continue for those receiving them, but they will not be renewed at the end of this year. And there will be no more extended benefits for those going on unemployment now, unless job losses mount to recession-era levels.
California and Nevada are among the states that have the highest duration of benefits, at 76 weeks, while Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota and Kansas are among the states with the lowest duration, at 40 weeks.
Not every one sees extensions as beneficial—despite any evidence to the contrary. Timothy Nash, an economics professor at Northwood University, said he believes extended benefits keep the unemployed from looking for work.
"There's a lot of debate about the impact of extensions but my gut feeling is that giving them hurts the job picture," said Nash. "If we look at countries like Sweden that had long term extensions and high unemployment, when they ended the extensions the jobless rate went down."
"I think some people need them," Nash went on to say. "People with certain skills that can use the extensions to take the time to find a job that's right for them. But without extensions, people feel a better sense of urgency that they have to find a job."
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"Having these extensions, while they give some people a way to live, are not the best thing to do," Nash argued. "I think they add to the long-term unemployment situation instead of ending it."
Currently, there are some 4.4 million Americans listed as long-term unemployed—defined as those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more., according to the BLS.
While that's better than the high of 6.7 million in April of 2010, it's still not enough of an improvement, said Chris Rhomberg, a sociology professor and labor expert at Fordham University.
"The long-term unemployed need help, and they're not getting it," Rhomberg argued. "You've got a situation where employers can reject people who have been out of work for a long time and they don't suffer any consequences."
"Businesses are not hiring and extensions are down. It's cruel," said Rhomberg.