Not a Game: Women and Families Hit Hard by Long-Term Unemployment

by Emily Wales (originally posted on the National Women's Law Center's blog on June 18, 2014)

Word association game. I’ll go. I say, “9 months.” You say…?


School year.

Average period of unemployment.

Ouch. I know – I pulled a bit of a bait-and-switch and made my game decidedly un-fun. But honestly, far too many jobless workers around the country feel like they’ve been swindled, too, aware of government supports that were in place during previous periods of high unemployment. But now, when these workers most need support, some Members of Congress can’t be bothered.

For adult women and men who have lost a job and are looking for work, the average duration of unemployment is — remarkably — about 9 months. Clearly, a lot can happen in that time, and sometimes the results are great (a new baby! a new grade in school!). Other times, the results can be devastating, especially for unemployed workers whose state benefits typically last no more than six months.

We told you recently about the Witness Wednesday events that are being held outside the Capitol weekly, highlighting the pressing need for Congress to extend federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to provide a critical lifeline to jobless workers and their families. The federal program, which expired last December, looked like it might be renewed in April, when the Senate passed a bipartisan extension. But the House failed to take up the bill (although they did find time to prioritize corporate subsidies). When the program expired, more than 1.3 million workers lost their benefits immediately; today, that number has grown to over 3 million workers. And it just keeps going up, with an additional 72,000 losing benefits each week.

Today’s Witness Wednesday focused the spotlight on women workers dealing with long-term unemployment, and we listened to stories from women around the country who struggle to find money to pay the bills and feed their kids. While this crisis deeply affects both women and men, women typically earn less than their male counterparts and have a far greater likelihood of being single parents — making them that much more economically vulnerable when their unemployment benefits run out. We’ve released new analysis on the ways in which long-term unemployment affects women — and the results speak for themselves. Some (upsetting) key facts:

  • Women 55 and older experience the highest rates of long-term unemployment and longest spells of unemployment, among women by age.  About half are long-term unemployed, and unemployment for jobless women workers in this age group lasts an average of a year.

  • Asian-American and African-American women are particularly hard hit, experiencing the highest rates of long-term unemployment and longest spells of unemployment, among women by race and ethnicity. Nearly half of Asian-American women are long-term unemployed, and unemployment for jobless Asian-American women lasts about a year on average.

  • During an average month in 2013, 2.3 million children lived with a parent who had been seeking work for 6 months or more — triple the number in 2007.

  • More than 1 in 3 families with a parent unemployed long-term were poor.

You should read the stories and watch the video online, because the voices of these struggling workers and their families deserve to be heard. And although Congress may be playing politics — passing even more tax breaks without paying for them, while still refusing to bring up a UI renewal — families in crisis know the truth: This is very much not a game.

This post was authored by Emily Wales and originally published on the National Women's Law Center's blog on June 18, 2014.

Photo credits: National Women's Law Center

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For more information on the Witness Wednesday: Voices of the Unemployed event series, click on the logo below:

For Further Reading:

Six Months after Emergency Unemployment Benefits Expired, 2.8 Million Americans Left BehindThe Fine Print blog, May 21, 2014

Witness Wednesdays: Stories of the Long-Term Unemployed to Be Read on Capitol HillThe Fine Print blog, June 10, 2014

Not a Game: Women and Families Hit Hard by Long-Term Unemployment, National Women's Law Center blog, June 18, 2014

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Can we, the former long-term employed, tax-payers, who lost our jobs and then our unemployment checks, at no fault of our own, believe that John Boehner and the Republicans, have finally found a heart? The stats, regarding the harm of their decision to block an extension, should have convinced them, to do the right thing. How can they gey away with ignoring the suffering of American citizens? Are we just collateral damage?Less than 1% of the population, so we don't matter? I only hope that 3.5 million of us add to the government Welfare budget, instead of dropping off the planet into homelessness or even sadder, suicide. All the advocates, organizations and elected Democrat officials who are conducting the Wednesday rallies, I am grateful. I only ask that the vital need of a retro pay, for all who were denied unemployment after 6 months, not be dismissed. Without that lump sum, many of can not continue to live in our homes or afford to find another home.
I am thankful for the Center For Effective Government for continuing to fight for the long term unemployed! Their "Witness Wednesdays" events have kept the EUC issue in the news!
Call WH leave comment 202 456 1111 , thats one reason CANTOR LOST!!!! unemployment is 13.4 %
202 456 1111 WH#
Help us! Where is Obama and boehner?
I think that we've been heard. It's now up to Boner (not a typo) to swallow his pride and to allow the house to vote. He's too proud to allow the public to think that he was pressured into bringing the bill for a vote. He needs an "out" such as a suggested, public directive from Obama. This will allow him to bring the bill to vote and place blame on the white house. All I've heard the last two weeks is republican posturing against Obama (Iraq situation etc). I personally am glad that Obama has taken things personally by not keeping the "House of Republicans" in the loop with his actions unless required to. I am not presently a registered voter. But rest assured, as an ex-republican, I will re-register and vote Democrat across the board. I suggest ( for those of us that haven't turned to crime for survival) that you all do the same.
get rid of all those scum bags, from Whitehouse to house of reps, vote for independents. The beauty of independents is if they work they get votes, if they don't they get nothing! The independents have no party agenda.
If you are reading this you need to call and write your senators and congressmen. I did and to no surprise, never received an answer as to why they are turning their backs on my American brothers and sisters! If you are not registered to vote, get registered!!! Republicans and Democrats are both failing to represent us. Let's turn this next election upside down and I'll bet we get their attention!
As hard as women with children are being hit by this the most vulnerable are women and men WITHOUT children because we are not eligible for any type of government assistance. I went to a soup kitcen for the first time in my life and can tell you the demographics were 100% middle aged men. We paid into the system all our lives and are now left to starve and die when we need help.