Six Months after Emergency Unemployment Benefits Expired, 2.9 Million Americans Left Behind

While the monthly jobs numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate official unemployment is gradually falling, there were still 9.8 million Americans out of work in April, of which 3.5 million were unemployed for 27 weeks or more. Americans are still hurting, and Congress needs to take action immediately.

A recent Politico article described both the hope and disappointment provided by these latest numbers: “That’s nearly a million fewer [unemployed] people than 12 months ago but [it is] still a national problem of epic proportions, according to advocates.”

Taking the Temperature of the Labor Market in the States

The tepid improvement at the national level is mirrored in states across the country:

  • California: California’s unemployment rate is down, but there are still 25,200 fewer jobs than before the recession started.

  • North Carolina: North Carolina reports one of the most rapidly falling unemployment rates in the country, but these improvements are partially superficial. When workers give up and stop looking for work, they no longer count as unemployed – which means they are no longer included in the unemployment count. In North Carolina, 49,400 workers exited the labor market without having found a job over the course of the last year.

  • South Carolina: Similarly, in South Carolina, 23,900 workers disappeared from the official numbers without having found a position, contributing to the drop in the state’s unemployment rate.

  • New Jersey: In New Jersey, official unemployment numbers also fail to tell the whole story. Almost 80,000 fewer New Jerseyans are counted in April’s jobs data compared with last year. Preliminary numbers for April suggest that there have been few, if any, net new jobs created in the last year in the state.

Americans understand that unemployment remains a huge problem even if there statistical indications of some improvement. When polled, 20 percent of Americans say unemployment and jobs is the “most important problem facing the country.” Indeed, more Americans are worried about unemployment now than they were a month ago.

Extending Emergency Unemployment Would Provide Timely, Needed Assistance

A retroactive extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program would provide quick, needed relief to some of the hardest hit victims of the tough jobs market, namely the long-term unemployed who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks. As the below graph shows, long-term unemployment as a percentage of total unemployment is still higher than any time in the last 60 years.

Even as the job market continues to recover, studies have shown that people who have been out of work for more than six months face higher hurdles to finding new jobs. The recovery has been uneven, and many individuals, including those who have been unemployed for longer periods of time, have been left behind.

The Illinois Department of Labor recently conducted a study that confirms that the long-term unemployed disproportionately struggle to find work. According to the study, of the 74,000 residents of Illinois who lost their benefits at the end of 2013, more than 86 percent were still unemployed in February. Illinois Department of Employment Security Director Jay Rowell commented on the findings:

“You should look at this analysis as confirmation that re-authorizing emergency unemployment is a cost-effective way to help families stay in their homes and put food on their tables. But you cannot look at this and say that people don’t want to work.”

Searching for a Way Forward

Recently, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) sought to attach a year-long extension of emergency unemployment benefits to an $85 billion package of tax breaks for corporations and individuals. This extension would have provided relief to struggling Americans and stimulated the economy. Senate Republicans filibustered the tax extenders package, to which the EUC extension was attached, due to frustrations with Senate procedure.

The clock is ticking to extend emergency unemployment. Every week that unemployment insurance is not extended, approximately 72,000 Americans join the ranks of those cut off from help, and additional jobs are lost because money is not flowing into communities and small businesses.

More than 2.9 million American families have lost their emergency unemployment benefits. In a couple weeks, this number will cross the 3 million mark. It's well past time for Congress to act; if it continues to do nothing, millions of workers will be left out in the cold, and 240,000 more jobs could be lost.



For Further Reading

Emergency Unemployment Benefits Bill Passes the Senate, Increasing Pressure on the HouseThe Fine Print blog, April 8, 2014

Stories of Americans Cut Off of Emergency Unemployment CompensationGovernment Matters, April 22, 2014

Emergency Unemployment Extension Expected to Take Back Seat to Tax ExtendersThe Fine Print blog, April 25, 2014

Technically Speaking: Making Sense of Discharge Petitions, Cloture and FilibustersThe Fine Print blog, May 5, 2014

Unemployed Americans Kicked Out of Capitol, Forced to Share Their Stories OutsideThe Fine Print blog, May 10, 2014

This post has been updated since its original publication date.

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Thank you Jessica for another great article about us and for us!
Yes thanks for writing for us. We have a place to come to and think, talk, just vent.
Yeah thanks Jessica you hot little babe.
Thank you for continuing to bring this situation to light. I lost my job in July 2013 due to corporate downsizing. I have applied for hundreds and hundreds of jobs, those that I am qualified for, not even remotely qualified for, and mostly is seems, those that I am OVER qualified for. Had a number of interviews that ended the same way, "I'm sorry, but you are over qualified and we can't spend the money to train you knowing that you will leave when you find a better opportunity." I have worked since I was 15 years old, never needed unemployment insurance until now. And now that I need it in this pathetic job market, I'm left out to dry. The little bit of savings I managed to put away as a single mother is long gone, everything of any value that I owned has been sold. My bills are so overdue I honestly cant figure out why I still have lights and hot water. I've been forced to apply for food stamps to feed my 10 year old son, who once upon a time had 2 parents with good jobs, a beautiful house in the suburbs, and food in the pantry. I have tapped my resources, and I'm out of options. The 1st of June will be the 2nd month in a row I haven't paid rent and we will be evicted from the apartment we moved into 6 months ago. It's been a very tough year, and Boehner's refusal to put this to vote is going to put my son and I on the streets. Literally. Despair is setting in, someone please do something to get this passed.
From the HuffPo: WHY THE LONG-TERM JOBLESS PROBABLY WON'T BE GETTING THEIR BENEFITS BACK WASHINGTON -- The 2 million Americans who've missed out on long-term unemployment insurance since December probably won't be getting their benefits back. Last month, the Senate passed legislation that would give lump-sum payments to people cut off since December by reauthorizing federal programs retroactively from December through May. But even if the House moved on the Senate bill this week and allowed people to collect back-payments, the long-term jobless would only receive support for one more week before the benefits expired again. Now, the retrospective push is losing steam. Though they still say House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should allow a vote on the Senate bill, the senators advocating for the legislation are wondering if it remains practical after all this time. "Or have we reached a point because of the delay that the prospective option is the only one that's viable," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told HuffPost on Tuesday. In other words, Reed and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the two senators from the states with the highest rates of unemployment, might abandon back payments in favor of restoring the safety net for people who become unemployed for long periods of time in the future. "We haven't come to any conclusions," Reed said. Reed and Heller may try to attach the federal benefits to unrelated transportation or tax legislation, but those are long shots. Since 2008, Democrats have successfully won reauthorizations of unemployment a dozen different times. Usually, the benefits have been combined with some other urgent, Republican-friendly piece of legislation -- a key ingredient that has been missing this time. In 2010, lawmakers attached the unemployment benefits to a two-year reauthorization of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, and they added a one-year payroll tax break for workers. The payroll tax cut's looming expiration helped lawmakers cut another deal the following year, but Republicans also insisted on a slew of reforms to the unemployment system, including a reduction in the number of weeks of assistance. During recessions, Congress always gives extra weeks of benefits to people laid off through no fault of their own if they can't find work after using the standard 26 weeks of benefits offered by states. The deal cut early in 2012 pared the combination of state and federal benefits back from a maximum of 99 weeks to 73 weeks, and it set in motion more reductions that would happen automatically when state unemployment rates declined. At the end of 2012, the benefits once again hitched a ride with the Bush tax cuts in the "fiscal cliff" drama. Then, following a government shutdown last fall, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) got to work on a bipartisan budget agreement. Democrats did not insist on attaching the unemployment benefits to the budget deal, hoping they could be handled separately before the end of the year. The budget deal might have been their best chance to save the benefits from expiring at the end of December. "If they really wanted to get this done, they would've taken that week in December when the House was gone and the Senate was in and jammed us" by attaching the benefits and sending the bill back to the House, a House GOP leadership aide said, speaking anonymously in order to discuss the matter candidly. "We were certainly expecting them to do it, and that was their best chance." Instead, the Senate passed the budget deal clean, later addressing the benefits as standalone legislation. Democrats have been beating up Boehner for refusing to allow a vote on the Senate bill, hoping the pressure would change his mind. "The House could pass the legislation very quickly," Reed said Tuesday. "It is a bipartisan, fully paid-for Senate bill. It's more than ironic they were able to pass a multibillion-dollar tax bill unpaid for, but they can't deal with unemployment insurance for over 2 million Americans." The strategy hasn't worked. One reason for Boehner's impassiveness is that the national unemployment rate keeps going down. When the Labor Department announced the rate had sunk to 7 percent in November, Boehner seized on the news. “Today’s report includes positive signs that should discourage calls for more emergency government 'stimulus,'" Boehner said. Since then, the rate has declined to 6.3 percent. Yet the rate of long-term unemployment remains historically high. In April, 35.3 percent of the unemployed had been out of work six months or longer -- down from a peak of 45.3 percent in April of 2010, but still way higher than in any previous recession since World War II. The current percentage is also higher than at any other time that Congress has allowed long-term benefits to expire. After so many battles over reauthorizing unemployment benefits, it's possible some lawmakers are just getting tired of it. "Though there are many members on both sides of the aisle who would vote yes on an unemployment insurance bill that made it to the floor, the reality is that there is tremendous fatigue on this issue, especially on the right," Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project who routinely deals with lawmakers, said in an email. "Between the initial authorization of [long-term benefits] and all the expansions and reauthorizations, this is the 13th time Congress has been called on to deal with the benefits, including five different reauthorizations in 2010 alone," Conti said. "In fact, it's probably the case that members of Congress have dealt with unemployment insurance more than almost any other issue since even before the recession began."
It's very sad that the Congress would sit and let almost 3 million people suffer in the USA. A change must take place in this country now! We need to vote out everyone that will not help the citizens of the USA. I understand this country helps other nations, but we there is a need at home, it should be handled before help any other country or the wealthy of this country. Please everyone vote in November for a change and let's take back our country...
i've been out of work since last June when they sold my job to a 3rd party vendor. i apply to jobs every week, but there's simply too many people looking at the same jobs. if i ever get a pre-screen call, they now ask "what have i been doing since June", as if i'm just sitting around watching cartoons and smoking dope in my pajamas. Well i've resided and painted a neighbor's house, put up another friend's pool, done whatever i could to earn some cash or just dinner. I had $10k in savings in June, i'm down to $500 now. Next will be to cash my 401k which is a measly $30k I saved over the last 10 years. So much for saving for retirement. Honestly, I get so depressed I sometimes think about hanging myself in the tool shed. Right-wing zealots talk about the uemployed like we're lazy and deserve to be poor. Those lazy people are out there, but so many of us are not like them. I mean, we QUALIFIED for unemployment before it ran out. There's just not enough jobs because CEO's are paying themselves too much while forcing employees to work two position's worth of work. And they're so desperate, they do the additional work without complaining. please John B, just send out some hit squads and eliminate us. Why drive us mad as we slowly slip into poverty? Jeez I can only imagine if i had kids i'd be resorting to crime maybe. I can understand why people do. Desperate people can only do so much on their own. WE NEED HELP FROM THE PEOPLE HOARDING ALL THE DANG MONEY! whatever. keep it all. there's no place left for hard working Americans. they want minimum wage stooges coast to coast to do their nails and groom their dogs while they offshore their earnings and vacations, and let the poor keep fighting their wars. this country has become a disgrace of hypocrisy, greed, and ignorance.
I personally consider Boehner's actions against his now 2.8 million fellow Americans as a willful and deliberate act of treason and unnecessary hardship. If only the rest of the unemployed would take this cowards actions as a personal assault on the lives "and make no mistake it is" this EUC dilemma would get solved PDQ !!
I hate to be the blog pessimist but I think it's over! If they pass anything it will be for going forward, there will be no retro. It's not going to help those of us that are upside down. Might pay to put some food in our bellies...too bad many of us no longer have stoves to cook on!