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Renewing Federal Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Vital for Women & Families—and the Economy

Persistently high unemployment—and historic levels of long-term unemployment—necessitate
renewing federal emergency unemployment insurance benefits that expired in December 2013.

Five years after the severe recession that began in December 2007 officially ended in June 2009, the slow economic recovery has brought the national unemployment rate to 6.3 percent—but job seekers continue to outnumber job openings by 2.6 to 1, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed remain at historic levels. Much of the improvement in the national unemployment rate over the past year has been due to people dropping out of, or not entering, the labor force due to weak job opportunities. As of May 2014, more than one in three jobless workers—nearly 3.4 million Americans—had been unemployed for more than six months. More than 3 million people have lost unemployment insurance benefits since December 2013, when Congress ended the federal emergency unemployment insurance program.

Federal emergency unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed workers who have exhausted their state benefits (typically 26 weeks) expired at the end of 2013. These benefits have played a critical role in the recovery, helping families avoid falling into poverty and spurring continued job growth by keeping dollars flowing into the economy. Allowing benefits to expire while unemployment remains very high cuts off a lifeline to unemployed workers and their families and slows potential for economic growth, which experts predict will lead the labor market to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs. Although the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to extend unemployment benefits in early April, the House has failed to take up the bill. By restoring federal unemployment benefits, Congress would help the long-term unemployed and promote a stronger recovery.

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