Ongoing Long-Term Unemployment Crisis Clouds Jobs Report, Undermines Economic Recovery

1.7 Million Long-Term Unemployed Workers Suffer Without Federal Jobless Aid

NEW YORK—Long-term unemployment remained at crisis levels, according to the Labor Department’s January jobs report. Around 10.2 million workers were unemployed in January, and 3.6 million, or 35.8 percent, of those workers have been unemployed for six months or longer. The economy added 113,000 jobs, fewer than expected, with the unemployment rate ticking down to 6.6 percent.  December’s weak jobs growth of 75,000 reflects an upward revision of just 1,000 jobs.

Due to Congress’s failure to reauthorize emergency unemployment insurance, 1.7 million long-term unemployed workers are weathering the winter without any form of jobless aid. The loss of this critical assistance, which unemployed workers spend to cover their most basic expenses during their job search, has denied the economy of an estimated $1.6 billion in consumption.

“Since Congress cut off jobless aid, I have been evicted from my apartment, and I can no longer afford to put minutes on my cell phone,” said Kathy Biscotti from Baltimore, who was laid off in June 2013 from her job at a real estate company. “Trying to find a job in this economy was already next to impossible, it’s even harder without a phone or an address. It’s sickening to me that Congress is choosing to inflict this kind of suffering on people who want to work.”

On Thursday, all but four Senate Republicans successfully filibustered consideration of a three-month, fully paid-for, retroactive extension of emergency unemployment compensation.  Opponents of the legislation included senators from high unemployment states, such as Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois, where the unemployment rate was 8.6 percent as of December, and Rob Portman of Ohio, whose state’s unemployment rate is 7.2 percent. If Congress continues to fail to pass an extension of unemployment insurance, the toll of workers without critical jobless assistance will climb to nearly two million by March.

“The continued failure of Congress to renew federal unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed is shameful,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Every day without action by Congress is another day of needless suffering by the long-term unemployed and their families, forced by congressional indifference to struggle through the coldest winter on record without the vital lifeline of support unemployment insurance provides.”

According to a recent NELP report, jobless aid plays a crucial role in facilitating re-employment of long-term unemployed workers by keeping them actively engaged in their job hunt and in the workforce. With nearly three unemployed job-seekers for every one job opening, around 36 percent of unemployed workers are out of work for six months or more. In all, 3.6 million Americans are currently long-term unemployed, and nearly one in four have been out of work for one year or longer.

Emma Stieglitz
(646) 200-5307

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