(Daily Finance) — The U.S. unemployment rate continues to hover around 9%, with nearly 14 million Americans out of work. Worse still, many of them are remaining unemployed for extended periods: According to April’s numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.8 million Americans have been out of work for more than 27 weeks. The Fed has estimated that the jobless ratemay not drop below 9% on an extended basis this year, and could still be as high 8% by the end of 2012. The dual problems of unemployment and chronic, long-term joblessness raise the question of how long the federal and state governments will continue to provide extended jobless benefits. Congress voted late in 2010 to extend federal unemployment paymentsso that the nearly two million Americans who were about to lose financial support would not. However, such Congressional reprieves, as well as any similar moves made at the state level, will only last as long as politicians are willing to risk voter ire over deficit spending. The age of government austerity has begun, and unemployed Americans will probably be among its most significant victims.