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You Don’t Need Extended Unemployment Benefits… You Need to Find A Job

January 17, 2014

The weak December jobs report, with only 74,000 new positions created, the lowest number since January 2011, has raised the hue and cry in Washington for extending long-term unemployment benefits.  The so-called long-term unemployed, a number estimated at 1.4 million workers, had their jobless benefits expire in December, 2013.

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Can we really afford to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed?

While I do understand first-hand the difficulty of looking for work, these folks have to face the new harsh reality —  you’ve got to take whatever employment available, even if it means a significant cut from your previous salary and transitioning to an hourly wage.  The U.S. budget deficit juggernaut, complicated by fiscal cliffs and sequesters, is in no position to be giving more generous extended benefits than we’ve previously allowed. 

I had the misfortune to lose my job just before the recession really kicked in 2008.   I looked and looked for work,  but when I exhausted my 26-week benefits, I faced up to the reality of taking a part-time job that was considerably less than I was qualified for.  I didn’t like it, but no one was yet aware of the severity of the Great Recession and, unable to find full-time unemployment in my field, I joined the growing army of part-time employees.  I squeaked by with an independent health insurance policy with very high deductibles and minimal benefits that would protect me only in the face of a catastrophic illness or accident.

When the income from my part-time job (commission-only sales of major appliances at a leading retail chain) fluctuated, I bit the bullet again and took another additional part-time position.  Extended unemployment benefits only push off the inevitable need of finding a job, something, anything , to get a paycheck.

This unattractive alternative is why we are seeing historic lows in the labor participation rate, 62.8 percent last month.  The official unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, down from 7.0 percent, but really it’s because fewer people are looking for work.  This doesn’t factor in people like me, not technically unemployed, but making a fraction of my former salary.  The jobs gap, employment at pre-recession levels compared to today (and factoring in the natural population increase), is a whopping -7.9 million positions according to Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute ( see her thoughts here).  While progress has been made in creating jobs the last year:

Jan.        148,000 new jobs for the month

Feb.       332,000

March   142,000

April       199,000

May       176,000

June      172,000

July          89,000

Aug.       238,000

Sept.     175,000

Oct.        200,000

Nov.      241,000

Dec.       74,000

… the pace of hiring has not really accelerated since 2011, when it was 175,000. In 2012, it was 183,000, and over most of 2013 it was 191,000. While this is an improvement, it’s not nearly enough to seriously put a dent in the jobs abyss.

So former executives, welcome to the world of part-time labor… and get used to it because I don’t see the economy rapidly improving any time soon.

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One Comment
  1. Tori permalink

    It absolutely stinks, but I agree. A lousy part-time job is better than no job at all, you can’t be unemployed forever.

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