Among those still unemployed, about six in 10 had been job hunting for at least a year, with fully one-third looking for an opening more than two years, according to the research report by Rutgers University about the American public's attitudes about work and the economy.
Roughly half of the unemployed believe another year will go by before they begin working again, if ever, it says.
By a margin of 2-to-1, unemployed workers fear they will never regain the financial position they had before the recession, according to some of the main findings from the study titled "The Shattered American Dream: Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and Faith in their Futures."
More than three-quarters of the long-term unemployed (76 per cent) say they have "a lot less" in income and savings now, compared with when the recession began. Many have borrowed money from friends and family, sold possessions and gone without needed health care. The economic victims of the recession are enduring downwardly mobile lives, CNN quoted the study as saying.
"The core American belief that people who work hard will get ahead has been shattered. Now the majority of the unemployed do not believe that simple hard work will guarantee success," it says.
A staggering number of those surveyed also worry that the American economy has undergone fundamental, lasting changes.
Nearly two-thirds think that older workers will not be able to retire when they want to (65 per cent). More than half say it will become harder for young people to afford college (51 per cent) and that workers will have to take jobs below their skill level (49 per cent).
America's unemployed also voice little confidence in the government's ability to help them. The survey, conducted after the mid-term national election in November, found that only 30 per cent of the unemployed are more hopeful about an economic recovery because of the election.
When the survey group was asked to choose between President Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress about whom they trust to do a better job handling the economy, "neither" won at 41 per cent.
The Heldrich Center at Rutgers first interviewed a national sample of more than 1,200 unemployed workers who lost their jobs during the recession in August 2009. More than 900 were re-interviewed in March, and 764 were contacted again in November, the report said.