How the Long-Term Unemployed Can Find Work

5 million Americans have been looking for work for six months or more.

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Expanding the network. Any career expert can tell you that networking is critical to finding a job, so, older workers would seem to have an advantage on their younger peers through the rich networks they've built over the course of their careers. But job seekers ages 45 and older actually represented a larger percentage of the long-term unemployed than of the total unemployed in 2003, the Labor Department found.

Often, workers who are out of work for long periods are challenged by social networks in which many of their contacts are also out of work, says Mark Granovetter, a Stanford University sociologist. That may be particularly true in this recession, which has been characterized by downturns in specific sectors—such as residential construction and auto manufacturing. There is some promising anecdotal evidence, however, that employers are using online social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook effectively, to help make connections with potential employees, Granovetter says. Time spent making online connections could help job seekers circumvent the challenge of an unpromising offline network.