Long-term jobless benefits expire Saturday, weekly unemployment claims spike
US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said Friday that Congress must restore unemployment benefits that expire Saturday for 1.3 million Americans, including over 700 Vermonters, who have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks.
Unless Congress acts, jobless benefits will lapse during the first half of 2014 for an additional 1.9 million people, including another 2,300 Vermonters.
“It is not only immoral to cut off help for workers struggling to find jobs, it is also bad economics,” Sanders said. “At a time when long-term unemployment is near a record level, cutting benefits will hurt the rest of the economy and cause even more jobs to disappear.”
Failure to extend benefits would be a $25 billion blow to the economy during the coming year and result in the loss of more than 200,000 additional jobs, according to the conservative estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also projected a 0.2 percent drop in the nation’s gross domestic product unless the benefits are extended.
In Vermont, new unemployment claims spiked again last week as seasonal hiring remains erractic. Mathew Barewicz, economic and labor market information chief at the Vermont Department of Labor, said the unemployment claim pattern is typical this time of year in Vermont, he said, as the economy transitions from warm to cold weather labor requirements and also reflects temporary hires and layoffs.
For the week of December 21, 2013, there were 1,306 new, regular benefit claims for Unemployment Insurance in Vermont. This is an increase of 438 from the previous week's total, and 98 fewer than they were a year ago.
Altogether 7,377 new and continuing claims were filed, an increase of 707 from a week ago and 771 fewer than a year ago. The Department also processed 728 First Tier claims for benefits under Emergency Unemployment Compensation, 2008 (EUC08), 21 more than the same number a week ago.
In addition, there were 27 Second Tier claims for benefits processed under the EUC08 program, which is 2 more than the week before. There were 5 Tier III claims, which is 3 fewer than a week ago. The Tier I, II and III programs are scheduled to expire on December 31, unless Congress renews these extended benefit programs.
The total for all programs was 8,137 claims, 727 more than last week, but 1,332 fewer than the same time last year.
Vermont's unemployment rate fell one-tenth to 4.4 percent in November, the second consecutive month the rate has fallen one-tenth. SEE STORY.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has said that a measure to restore long-term jobless benefits will be the first bill the Senate takes up when it reconvenes on Jan. 6. Sanders is one of 21 cosponsors of the bill, but only one Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, has signed on as a supporter. “The critical question is how many Republicans are prepared to stand with unemployed workers,” Sanders said.
While the jobless rate has declined in recent months, it is still far worse than it was in 2008 when President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program into law. Back then the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and the average length of unemployment was 17.1 weeks. Today, the official unemployment rate in November was 7 percent and the average length of unemployment is more than 36 weeks.
Moreover, the official unemployment figure masks the reality that total unemployment stood last month at 13.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number counts workers forced to settle for part-time jobs and those who gave up looking for jobs.
The number of long-term unemployed has been among the lingering effects of the severe recession that began in 2008. Today, there are three job applicants for every one job opening. There simply aren’t enough jobs out there for the 11 million Americans who are actively seeking work. As a result, 37 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for more than six months.
Because the recession has continued to hurt job prospects, Congress reauthorized the extended unemployment benefits program 11 times since the recession began in 2008.
Altogether, nearly 24 million Americans (including more than 33,000 Vermonters) have received the emergency unemployment benefits since 2008. Unemployment benefits, typically $300 a week, lifted 2.5 million Americans out of poverty last year, according to the Census Bureau.