Most Of The Unemployed No Longer Receive Benefits

The jobs crisis has left so many people out of work for so long that most of America's unemployed are no longer receiving unemployment benefits.

Early last year, 75 percent were receiving checks. The figure is now 48 percent — a shift that points to a growing crisis of long-term unemployment. Nearly one-third of America's 14 million unemployed have had no job for a year or more.

Congress is expected to decide by year's end whether to continue providing emergency unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks in the hardest-hit states. If the emergency benefits expire, the proportion of the unemployed receiving aid would fall further.

The ranks of the poor would also rise. The Census Bureau says unemployment benefits kept 3.2 million people from slipping into poverty last year. It defines poverty as annual income below $22,314 for a family of four.

Yet for a growing share of the unemployed, a vote in Congress to extend the benefits to 99 weeks is irrelevant. They've had no job for more than 99 weeks. They're no longer eligible for benefits.

Their options include food stamps or other social programs. Nearly 46 million people received food stamps in August, a record total. That figure could grow as more people lose unemployment benefits.

So could the government's disability rolls. Applications for the disability insurance program have jumped about 50 percent since 2007.

"There's going to be increased hardship," said Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute.

The number of unemployed has been roughly stable this year. Yet the number receiving benefits has plunged 30 percent.

Government unemployment benefits weren't designed to sustain people for long stretches without work. They usually don't have to. In the recoveries from the previous three recessions, the longest average duration of unemployment was 21 weeks, in July 1983.

By contrast, in the wake of the Great Recession, the figure reached 41 weeks in September. That's the longest on records dating to 1948. The figure is now 39 weeks.

"It was a good safety net for a shorter recession," said Carl Van Horn, an economist at Rutgers University. It assumes "the economy will experience short interruptions and then go back to normal."

Weekly unemployment checks average about $300 nationwide. If the extended benefits aren't renewed, growth could slow by up to a half-percentage point next year, economists say.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that each $1 spent on unemployment benefits generates up to $1.90 in economic growth. The CBO has found that the program is the most effective government policy for increasing growth among 11 options it's analyzed.

Jon Polis lives in East Greenwich, R.I., one of the 20 states where 99 weeks of benefits are available. He used them all up after losing his job as a warehouse worker in 2008. His benefits paid for groceries, car maintenance and health insurance.

Now, Polis, 55, receives disability insurance payments, food stamps and lives in government-subsidized housing. He's been unable to find work because employers in his field want computer skills he doesn't have.

"Employers are crying that they can't find qualified help," he said. But the ones he interviewed with "weren't willing to train anybody."

From late 2007, when the recession began, to early 2010, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose more than four-fold, to 11.5 million.

Using up benefits
But the economy has remained so weak that an analysis of long-term unemployment data suggests that about 2 million people have used up 99 weeks of checks and still can't find work.

"Hiring is not booming, but I don't think there is any sign of recession. The risk of the economy falling into a second recession over the next six to 12 months has been reduced, but we still have a very long way to go," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester Pennsylvania.

Contributing to the smaller share of the unemployed who are receiving benefits: Some of them are college graduates or others seeking jobs for the first time. They aren't eligible. Only those who have lost a job through no fault of their own qualify.

The proportion of the unemployed receiving benefits usually falls below 50 percent during an economic recovery. Many have either quit jobs or are new to the job market and don't qualify.

Today, the proportion is falling for a very different reason: Jobs remain scarce. So more of the unemployed are exhausting their benefits.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has noted that the long-term unemployed increasingly find it hard to find work as their skills and professional networks erode. In a speech last month, Bernanke called long-term unemployment a "national crisis" that should be a top priority for Congress.

Lawmakers will have to decide whether to continue the extended benefits by the end of this year. If the program ends, nearly 2.2 million people will be cut off by February.

Congress has extended the program nine times. But it might balk at the $45 billion cost. It will be the first time the Republican-led House will vote on the issue.


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  • by J.D. Location: ENC on Nov 7, 2011 at 11:52 AM
    My wife was laid off almost 3 years ago. The company she worked at for 25 years went out of business mainly do to the housing market crash. She has exhausted all unemployment and in our small town there is very little work. She went to an interview for a part time job that was paying $ 8.00 an hour she was 1 of 23 people that was also applying. She got a call back with 4 others needless to say she did not get the job. The man hiring told her he was stunned by the number of people that showed up. He told my wife he thought he would get 3 or 4 people to chose from.
  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Nov 7, 2011 at 08:19 AM
    Bloke, you have a good point. The war, the greed, the restrictions America has placed on, your civil rights groups as well as the EPA, and the political fighting is destroying the United States. As far as the politicians, I think they need to limit senators and house of representative members to just 2 terms maximum. That would help get them to do their job instead of trying to prepare for the next election.
    • reply
      by Bloke on Nov 7, 2011 at 09:29 AM in reply to Sam
      I think they should limit their salary to 100k a year and make them work a 40 hour work week in the office and assembly. They have it better than anyone I have ever seen and they take it for granted. They seem bullet proof because when it is all said and done they would take care of each other and throw us under the bus if times got really hard. I don't feel like a single one crongressman, representative, governor, judge, or fed are there to represent or help me. Voting anymore is like peeing in the wind.
  • by Bloke Location: New Bern on Nov 7, 2011 at 05:26 AM
    I have never seen the party affiliates more divided in my life. This whole mess started on Sept. 11th. The wars have strained our system and capital for over 10 years now. They have magnified what was evident for a long time coming. It doesn't matter anymore who or what is at fault. All of these stinking politicians (dem. and rep.) need to forget about themselves and their personal agendas and start thinking about who put them there. They will not do this until their pocketbooks start hurting. We need to forget about Republican this and Democrat that because they are on polar opposites and nothing will get done. They are both hurting this country and everything it stands for. They have the most leniant schedule and only assemble less that half the year when they need to be working the 120 hours every 2 weeks that I along with a ton of other people are doing. When will everyone realize that they are the problem. They hold the power and they get paid to debate back and forth with no progress being made. It is time to get serious, buckle down, collectively decide a path and solution, and work towards it because all this country is doing is sinking slowly but surely.
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil co on Nov 7, 2011 at 08:19 AM in reply to Bloke
      Agree to a point. When I see what is spent and how much we owe, I tend to blame it on the party that did it, not the party that wants to stop it. Obamacare, belongs to the democrats, trillion stimulus, democrats, deficit, democrats, so in a sense, there is one party responsible. When their new jobs bill means spending half a trillion more, its no more the solution than last time, its just spending. So the party that ran up the bill on our kids future, owns it lock stock and barrel. We voted to remove a democrat controlled house, now is the opportunity to do the same in the senate. Then see who owns up to what. We already know the status quo, alias, democrats solution to all problems, throw money at the problem till we owe a huge debt to the Chinese.
      • reply
        by Bloke on Nov 7, 2011 at 09:25 AM in reply to Obama Snake Oil co
        OSOC- Agreed, and when you talk about political views, I am definitely republican. The problem is though the blame and complaining gets us no where. The solutions that are poposed like the jobs bill is always underlined with special interests in mind instead of what it needs to be intended for which is getting the economy rolling again. Small business, banks lending money, offshore drilling, getting the troops home and closing outlying bases, repairing infrastructure. All of these will help and come from both sides of the road, but everyone has to be willing to give a little instead of always trying to one up the other. The republicans and the democrats have both tried the stimulus bull crap. That is the last thing we need. Someone should have gone to prison for the last one. The county need to unite instead of being black and white of repub and demo.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Nov 7, 2011 at 10:13 AM in reply to Bloke
      Bloke, the housing crisis caused more of this than the wars. And the dems are responsible for that starting with Clinton right through the house take over in 2006. I do blame Bush for not VETOing more of the democrat agenda.
      • reply
        by Bloke on Nov 7, 2011 at 01:13 PM in reply to
        I agree that giving out loans to people that can;t support them was rediculous. I think it is the culmination of a spectrum of problems. They are all magnified right now and the country is reaping what we have sewn.
  • by Jeff Location: Greenville, NC on Nov 7, 2011 at 04:56 AM
    If you haven't had a job in over a year, then you aren't trying hard enough to find one. There is no way someone should be on unemployment that long.
    • reply
      by Sam on Nov 7, 2011 at 08:21 AM in reply to Jeff
      What if the guy spent 24 hours a day and 7 days a week every week during the year trying to find a job? I'd say he then would be trying hard.
  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Nov 7, 2011 at 03:54 AM
    There is no Obamacare! Not one single health bill has been put into effect from Obama. Now face the facts. My Health insurance has gone up every year for at least the last ten years. Stop blaming Obama because your insurance company has been screwing you and sticking it to you every chance they get. Hows that tax cut for the rich working out for you?
    • reply
      by Sam on Nov 7, 2011 at 08:25 AM in reply to Lavon
      Lavon, Barack Obama is nowhere close to being innocent. You keep on making excuses for that scumbag trying to make it look like he is good for America. Barack Obama still allows illegal immigrants in the United States. Barack Obama put on that rediculous moratorium banning oil drilling when the gas prices are so high during this awful economy. Barack Obama has done nothing good for the United States. All Barack Obama does is lie and betray the normal U.S. citizens. Nobody smart enough can believe what he says. He will be history in 2012 as someone will knock him out.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Nov 7, 2011 at 10:13 AM in reply to Lavon
      Lavon, children can stay on their parents insurance until the age of 26 while in college... that is in place NOW ! More lies from you, again.
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on Nov 7, 2011 at 02:24 AM
    The dozens of posts show how good this "recession" has been for business and how bad it has been for working people. Employers no longer have to pay a decent wage or hire people full time. Union busting is almost the norm across the country. Houses are foreclosed on and then "rented back" to those who used to be able to afford a home. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The bank bailout has accomplished little but provide larger wages and bonuses for the very people who caused the mess in the first place. No reform, no relief.
  • by YEA Location: NC on Nov 7, 2011 at 01:34 AM
    Are they taking "scooter" owners too?
  • by ME Location: ENC on Nov 6, 2011 at 06:35 PM
    I would like to start collecting it so I can feed my family. I have been out of work for 5 weeks now and I have already had two job interviews and looking everyday, but without income coming in I can't pay the bills or feed my children. Heck at this point I will flip burgers but was told I was over qualified. It's a lose lose situation right now! All I can do is pray I get a job soon, since it looks like unemployment may take a year just to collect! That's the great state of NC for you!!
  • by 40some on Nov 6, 2011 at 11:30 AM
    Domino's pizza has some opportunities for delivery experts. Don't be disappointed though, not everyone qualifies.
  • by there are jobs available on Nov 6, 2011 at 10:15 AM
    For those willing to work, go to the oil fields of North Dakota. Or, go to school studying something that will help you land a job.
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