Unemployment Taking Toll on Middle-Aged Rate of those jobless over long term is 'unprecedented' By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Jun 23, 2012 11:49 AM CDT 25 comments Comments People stand in a line to enter a job fair in New York City. (Getty Images) (Newser) – The unemployment rate among younger workers may be higher, but economists are equally worried about those who are middle-aged and out of work, reports the Wall Street Journal. That's because the years between 45 and 60 should be prime earning years, a time when parents might well be trying to send kids to college and simultaneously caring for older parents. The ramifications can hit all three generations hard, especially considering that it usually takes older workers more time to find new jobs. As of May, about 3.5 million middle-aged Americans were unemployed—a rate of 6%—but 39% of them had been jobless for more than a year. That long-term figure is "unprecedented in modern US history," says the Journal piece. It's part of what makes this downturn so devastating: It has hit not only newbie workers but also "productive, steady workers in the prime of their careers—people who are ordinarily the backbone of the economy."