People unemployed more than six months at record high - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

People unemployed more than six months at record high

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KENNEWICK, Wash.--  The number of people out of work six months or longer reached 6.7 million in April, a new high. These people made up 45.9 percent of all unemployed people, also a record high.

Hiring isn't expected to be robust enough anytime soon, and economists think unemployment will remain above 9 percent by the November midterm elections. That could make Democratic and Republican incumbents in Congress vulnerable.

Here at home, more than four thousand people filed for unemployment insurance benefits last month in Benton and Franklin counties. Nearly sixty percent have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks; which is higher than the national average.

For employers to boost hiring significantly, the economy would need to grow at an annual rate of 6 percent to 8 percent a quarter, rather than the 3.2 percent pace logged in the first three months of this year, economists say. Such growth would mean shoppers were spending much more freely.

That scenario isn't likely, both because of high unemployment and sluggish wage gains. Nationwide, average hourly earnings rose just a penny in April, to $22.47.

Another issue is that small businesses, which usually help drive job creation during recoveries, are having trouble getting loans. That tight credit is crimping their ability to expand operations and hire.

Many economists think it will take until at least the middle of the decade to lower the unemployment rate to a more normal 5.5 percent to 6 percent.