NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- More Americans than ever before feel they have no hope of finding a job.
A record 1.21 million people want to work, but said they aren't looking because of the weak labor market, according to federal statistics released Friday. The June figure is up from 793,000 a year ago.
The statistic is yet another sign of how bleak the employment picture is. And these folks, known as "discouraged workers," aren't even counted in the unemployment rate because they haven't looked for work in the past four weeks.
Unlike those who have given up completely, discouraged workers have hunted for a job during the past year.
Still, there's not much hope out there for this segment of the unemployed. There are five workers for every available opening.
"Things are very, very weak and they are not expected to strengthen anytime soon. It's going to be a long slog," said Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning group.
Shierholz expects the unemployment rate, now at 9.5%, to hover around 10% through early next year.
Those who have been out of work for a long time will find it more difficult to land a new job, particularly if they are in sectors that will likely remain depressed, such as manufacturing and construction. They don't have the skills to switch industries.
"They stay unemployed because there's no fit," said Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of Economic Cycle Research Institute.
The labor force, in general, has shrunk over the past two months, contracting by 974,000 people as they lost confidence in their employment prospects. That reverses part of the gain of 1.7 million workers in the first four months of 2010, when a wave of optimism flowed through the nation.
More people may have stopped looking for work because their jobless benefits are expiring, wrote Deutsche Bank economists Joseph LaVorgna and Carl Riccadonna in a note. To collect unemployment benefits, people must be actively seeking work.
As the labor force contracts, the unemployment rate falls. This is one reason why it dropped in June from 9.7% the month before.
Some families are outraged at the sums they've been offered by Lufthansa as compensation for the Germanwings plane crash in March which killed 150 people. More
Uber just raised another $1 billion in funding, which values it at nearly $51 billion. More
Fast-food chains that operate in more than 30 locations nationwide are the sole target of a new rule in New York to hike their minimum wage to $15. But consumers and small business owners, as well as some employees, may be the ones to pay the price. More
You can't blame it on the economy anymore. More Millennials now have jobs, but are still living at home. More