Jobs Report Better Than Expected But Still Offers Little Relief for 2 Million Long-Term Unemployed Cut Off From Federal Jobless Aid

Long-Term Jobless Suffer Due to Congressional Failure to Reauthorize Crucial Safety Net Program

WASHINGTON, DC—In a week when the number of long-term unemployed Americans cut off from federal jobless aid reached two million, February’s modest jobs report does little to address the immediate crisis facing these jobseekers. The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent, and while labor force participation did not change last month, it remains one-half a percentage point below one year ago. The economy added 175,000 jobs, which is stronger than the prior two months, but taken together, average monthly growth is still well below the same three-month period last year when monthly gains averaged 230,000. Around 10.5 million workers were unemployed in February, and 3.8 million, or 37 percent, of those workers were searching for work for six months or more. The total number of long-term unemployed workers grew by 203,000 last month.

If Congressional Republicans continue to block renewal of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, each week an additional 72,000 unemployed workers will run out of state unemployment benefits and be left without jobless aid.

Pam Gibson, 45, from South Point, Ohio, helped bring the total to more than two million. Ms. Gibson, who was laid off from her job in July 2013, ran out of state jobless aid just after the December expiration of the federal extension program.

“I have never drawn unemployment,” she wrote to the National Employment Law Project this week. “And now, the first time I need it, it has been cut off. Everything is behind. My house is in foreclosure. The car payment is behind. I don’t know what we are going to do. My 14-year-old daughter, my niece, and her three-year-old son depend on me—but right now I can’t support any of us. It’s time to stop the nonsense.”

A bill filed on Tuesday by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to reauthorize the EUC program for six months could see a vote as early as next week. The proposal is fully paid for with funds saved from the Farm Bill. Ongoing efforts by Democrats to renew EUC have been sabotaged by Republican filibusters and obstruction. In February, a three-month reauthorization fell one vote short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Four Republican Senators stood with Senate Democrats and Independents to advance that bill, but senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Dan Coats (R-IN) all voted to block the bill, despite previously indicating support for a renewal, and despite high numbers of long-term unemployed workers in their home states.

“Millions of Americans who want to work are becoming increasingly desperate each day that Congress fails to renew jobless aid,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “This refusal to reauthorize this critical economy-boosting program has disastrous consequences for millions of struggling families. The idea that only one vote has kept the Senate from considering—and likely passing—EUC renewal is offensive to Americans’ ideas of governance. Even more distressing, a single vote is perpetuating needless hardship for millions of Americans and inflicting needless pain on our economy.”

Melvin Hildreth III, 54, from Franklin, Wisconsin, lost his job last year and his benefits when federal jobless aid expired in December. He has been applying for 100 jobs a week. “This is a sad, hard time,” he wrote to the National Employment Law Project this week. “I have always worked and was very successful. I have sold everything I own. I had to move to Arizona to live with my 73-year-old father.”

Below are the latest data tables on the impacts of the expiration of federal unemployment insurance:

Emma Stieglitz
(646) 200-5307

Related to

The Latest News

All news