In May 2010, there were a record 6.763 million people unemployed for 27 weeks or more, or a record 4.38% of the labor force. This is significantly higher than during earlier periods.For all the talk, mostly from desk jockeys, of raising the retirement age, it's my impression that we're looking at a shift in the workforce - a consequence of modernization and globalization - that has created a significant population of workers whose skills are no longer needed and who, due to age and circumstance, aren't good candidates even for low wage or unskilled jobs in other fields. It's difficult to talk about "retraining", as a lot of the jobs for which people could retrain are in limited supply even in good economic times, and even where that's not the case it's often difficult for a worker who is twenty or more years older than her classmates to get hired into an entry level position.
It does appear the number of long term unemployed is near a peak (the increases have slowed). But it is still very difficult for these people to find a job - and this is a very serious employment issue.
I am concerned that a substantial percentage of the long-term unemployed are verging on unemployable, for conditions outside of their control. It's not enough to want a job or to have a long history of dedicated work if your skill set is no longer relevant to the workplace. Retraining will help only a subset of these workers find new jobs, mostly at a fraction of their prior earnings. This is also a population whose plight won't be much helped by stimulus spending. Even if the recession was responsible for the loss of their jobs, many or most of their jobs will be outsourced internationally or eliminated in the post-recession economy.