Congress allowed emergency unemployment insurance to expire on December 28, 2013, leaving 1.3 million Americans without a vital economic lifeline. The U.S. Senate is now considering extending these benefits for another three months. Failing to do so would be unprecedented in the history of federal responses to high unemployment following economic recessions.
Congress has offered extended emergency unemployment benefits in every major recession since the 1950s, and it has never failed to extend benefits when facing a long-term unemployment crisis as severe as the current one. Today, the percentage of unemployed workers who have been out of work long term, the length of time a typical worker is unemployed, and the share of workers who run out of benefits before finding a new job are all higher than they were each time Congress has let emergency unemployment insurance expire following past recessions. Moreover, the national unemployment rate, at 6.7 percent, is still unacceptably high, and there are still three job seekers for every job opening in the country.
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