Report Shows Ongoing Labor Market Distress, Need to Extend Jobless Aid
Washington, DC—With only 10 days left on the House legislative calendar before the Congressional holiday recess, a group of lawmakers issued an urgent call today to reauthorize federal jobless aid for the long-term unemployed as Representative Sandy Levin (D-MI) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) announced new legislation to renew federal unemployment insurance through 2014.
An estimated 1.3 million unemployed workers would be abruptly cut off from federal jobless aid at year’s end, if Congress fails to reauthorize the program before the December 31st expiration. An additional 1.9 million workers would lose this vital aid during the first six months of 2014.
The showdown over the future of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program takes place amid mounting evidence that the U.S. labor market remains in distress, as documented by an analysis released today by the National Employment Law Project.
"The fate of millions of workers who are struggling to find work in the wake of the Great Recession is in the hands of the leadership in Congress," said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. "With the holidays fast approaching, it would be unconscionable for Congress to recess without reauthorizing federal jobless aid, leaving millions of families out in the cold."
By nearly all measures, labor market conditions are worse than they were when Congress and then-President Bush first enacted the EUC program in June 2008. The slowly improving unemployment rate, which now stands at 7.3 percent, remains well above pre-recession levels. But labor market conditions are worse than the unemployment rate indicates, because much of the improvement in the unemployment rate has been the result of individuals dropping out of the labor force, rather than entering employment.
Moreover, long-term unemployment remains higher than during any other downturn since the Great Depression, with 4.1 million job-seekers, or 36.1 percent of all the unemployed, remaining out of work for six months or more.
Lawmakers joining today's event included Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Representatives Sandy Levin (D-MI), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). Last week, the director of the White House's National Economic Council, Gene Sperling, and Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated President Obama's strong support for Congressional action to reauthorize the EUC program, which will help millions of struggling job-seekers and their families keep a roof over their heads and give a needed boost to the economy.
"For the nearly four million Americans now receiving either state or federal unemployment insurance, introduction of legislation to renew the federal benefits program through next year is welcome news," Owens said. "Already struggling to find work in a still-challenging job market and to get by on modest benefits, the last thing these job-seekers and their families need is to be put through a wringer of worry that Congress will turn its back on America's unemployed workers and let federal jobless aid shut down between Christmas and New Year's. Congress should pass this critical legislation without delay."
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.