The term "99ers" describes those people who meet the following three conditions:
- They are unemployed;
- They are still looking to find work;
- They have exhausted their state and federal unemployment benefits.
They're called 99ers because 99 weeks is the maximum limit for benefits:
- 26 weeks from state unemployment insurance (UI) programs;
- 53 weeks (maximum, in four tiers) from the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program;
- 20 weeks (maximum, in two tiers) from the federal Extended Benefits (EB) program.
The various tiers of EUC and EB are based on, and triggered by, a state's unemployment rate. This chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities breaks down the tiers of the EUC and EB programs:
There are two important points to note:
- Not all UI exhaustees have reached a maximum limit of 99 weeks: some people will still be looking for work and exhaust benefits at 60 weeks. Some will hit their state's maximum limit at a point between 73 and 93 weeks. This blog will refer to every UI exhaustee as a 99er, regardless of the individual state maximum limits.
- Because of our focus on the 99ers, this blog does not factor in people who are underemployed and people who have left the workforce entirely.
Going forward, we'll identify current and potential UI exhaustees in two separate categories, based on how many weeks they've been out of work:
|60-98 weeks||People nearing or at their state's maximum limits for EUC and EB programs|
|99 weeks and over||all state, EUC and EB benefits exhausted|
Let's use the latest data as an example. These numbers come from the monthly Current Population Survey, Table 38 - Duration of unemployment by single weeks of unemployment. For December, 2010, the numbers look like this:
|Number of weeks||Number of Unemployed (thousands)|
|99 weeks and over||1,467|
Looking at the December numbers, we can see that the number of 'pure' 99ers is 1.467 million - these men and women are out of work and have exhausted the 99-week maximum limit on benefits and emergency compensation. There are an additional 947,000 men and women who are 'on the bubble' in the 60-98 week category: these people are about to reach their state's maximum limit, if they haven't already.
This blog will update its statistical reporting to incorporate the 60-98 week category, in order to more thoroughly report on the extent of the 99ers.