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Five years without work? Labor department will now track it

Here’s another sign of how bad the job market has become: the Labor Department is extending how long people can report that they have been unemployed.

Starting with the information collected for January's unemployment data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says it will report unemployment durations of up to five years.

Previously, it only recorded unemployment durations of up to two years.

The Labor Department said it expects that change will affect the table that measures average duration of unemployment.

Already, that figure is shockingly high. In November, the BLS said it took unemployed workers an average of 33.8 weeks — or more than seven months — to find a new job.

For older workers, the job search generally is taking even longer.

And for the so-called “99ers,” the situation is even more bleak. These workers have exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment benefits offered under state and federal plans, and yet they still have not found work.

The BLS said the new data will be incorporated into its unemployment report beginning with the release of the January data, which happens in early February.