More than two million workers have been without a job for more than six months.

Many people who lost their jobs in the first weeks of the coronavirus crisis now officially count as long-term unemployed.

The Labor Department said Friday that 2.4 million people had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, the formal — if somewhat arbitrary — threshold for long-term joblessness. An even bigger wave is on the way: Nearly five million people have been out of work for 15 to 26 weeks.

High levels of long-term unemployment were a hallmark of the recession a decade ago, when at one point nearly seven million people had been out of work for six months or longer. The current crisis does not yet rival that one in magnitude, but the numbers are rising much more quickly — last time, it took a full year after the recession began for long-term unemployment to reach its current level.

Research has found that people who are out of work for six months or more have a harder time getting jobs even when the economy improves, and many end up leaving the work force altogether. That can leave lasting scars on both workers and the broader economy.

“The risk is that you end up with people permanently detached from the labor market, and either you never get them back in or it takes you 10 years to get them back in, like it did the last time,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Economics. “The economic consequences are that you depress future growth.”

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