As the nation faces a labor crisis that refuses to let up, 7 million Americans currently receiving unemployment benefits may be running out of time to find a new job. But according to a recent poll, many millions more of the nation's long-term unemployed are facing joblessness a government check helping them to get by.
Only twenty-two percent of Americans who've been unemployed for more than a year are receiving unemployment benefits, according to a joint survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and National Public Radio. Even for those who are collecting jobless benefits -- which the National Employment Law Project reports average $296 a week -- the outlook appears grim: 94 percent of those polled said they thought it was at least somewhat likely their benefits would expire before they found a new job.
The findings come as Congress debates the future of long-term unemployment benefits. Democrats and the Obama administration are pushing for the extension of those benefits while House Republicans passed a bill this week that would eventually cut the duration of government aid to 59 weeks from 99 after the first of next year.
It's estimated 43 percent of the 13.3 million jobless Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, and more than 2 million Americans have been out of work for 99 weeks or more -- the current cutoff point for unemployment insurance in 22 states.
Supporters touting the economic benefits of unemployment aid have won the program a considerable amount of backing. The Congressional Budget Office recently recommended increasing aid to the unemployed as the single most effective way of improving the economy and creating jobs. According to the CBO, upping benefits would create 4 to 19 years of full-time employment for every million dollars invested in the program and returns on GDP growth would be nearly double what the government spends on the program.
The claims are supported by other studies including a 2010 report by the Urban Institute finding that for every dollar invested in unemployment benefits, two are put back into the economy. Likewise, the Census bureau recently found that an average of 1.6 million jobs were created each quarter between mid-2008 through mid-2010 as a result of unemployment benefits.
But some argue long-term unemployment benefits have the opposite effect and are in fact responsible for higher rates of unemployment. Researcher David Grubb of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that extending jobless benefits has added 2.7 percentage points to the unemployment rate.