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(LATimes.com) — Despite optimism over recent job gains, one grim statistic casts a long shadow over the recovering economy — a record 44% of the nation’s 15 million unemployed have been out of work for more than six months.

And the evidence suggests that many of them may never completely rebuild the working lives they lost.

Never since the Great Depression has the U.S. labor market seen anything like it. The previous high in long-term unemployment was 26% in June 1983, just after the deep downturn of the early 1980s. The 44% rate in March translates into more than 6.5 million people.

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