Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Unemployment & UI

Senators Announce Possible Deal to Extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance

For the more than 2 million unemployed Americans whose unemployment insurance (UI) benefits were cut off last December, there’s hope.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who has been leading efforts to extend federal emergency UI benefits for long-term jobless workers, announced yesterday that Senate negotiators have reached a bipartisan deal. The agreement, if passed, would extend benefits for workers who have been unemployed more than six months and whose state benefits have run out. The extension would provide for five months of federal benefits and allow for retroactive payments dating back to the program’s expiration in December.

We’ve told you before how crucial UI benefits are for workers struggling to make ends meet. With the economy continuing to recover, long-term unemployed workers know just how difficult it is to find a job, and they rely on benefits to put food on the table, put gas in their cars, and keep up with rent payments until they secure work. Long-term unemployment rates are still at historic levels – in fact, the long-term unemployment rate rose for women last month. Congress’ failure to act has hurt families around the country – and this latest report of a deal doesn’t mean the battle’s over. Read more »

1.6 Million and Counting: Unemployed Workers Continue to Lose Benefits as Congress Stalls on Extension

When the expiration of federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) started making front-page news in December, the number of people set to run out of benefits immediately was astounding: 1.3 million people.

Today – just a few weeks into the New Year – we’re at 1.6 million. And that number is only going to grow unless Congress acts.

We’ve been telling you just how critical these benefits are to Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. While the economy struggles to recover, jobs remain hard to come by – currently, job seekers outnumber job openings by almost three to one. Particularly hard hit are the nearly 3.9 million Americans who are long-term unemployed, meaning they have been searching for work for more than six months. The rate of long-term unemployment remains at historically high levels, and while workers previously were able to rely on federal unemployment benefits when their state benefits ended, the federal program’s December expiration has left many workers out in the cold. Read more »

A Shameful Week on the Hill

It’s been a dismal week for unemployed Americans and their families. On Tuesday, Republican senators blocked bills that would have renewed the federal emergency unemployment insurance program, which expired on December 28. Since then, over 1.5 million long-term unemployed workers have lost a crucial source of income – and that number continues to grow as 72,000 people lose access to benefits each week.

It is important to note that many of those 1.5 million affected workers have families. An estimated 2.3 million children currently live with long-term unemployed parents, multiplying the damage caused by cutting off the lifeline that unemployment insurance provides. And if Congress fails to restore federal benefits, there are more dark days ahead: the Council of Economic Advisers and the Department of Labor estimate that close to 3.6 million more workers will lose their benefits by the end of 2014. Congress has never allowed these benefits to expire when long-term unemployment was as high as it is now – with nearly 3.9 million people still looking for work after at least six months of searching – but members will leave for recess today without passing an extension of the program.

Fortunately, many are determined to turn Congress around. Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a press event on unemployment insurance in the Senate, where I listened to gut-wrenching stories from a group comprised of members of Congress, unemployed citizens and activists. Senator Jack Reed’s opening words captured the afternoon’s tone: “We should not be here. We should be on the floor to extend unemployment insurance.” Read more »

Update: Senate Moves Forward with Unemployment Insurance Bill - But Critical Votes Still to Come

Yesterday, 60 Senators voted to proceed to debate on a bill to extend the federal emergency unemployment insurance program for three months. This measure is urgently needed to restore a lifeline to the 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers who lost their benefits over the holidays, and today’s bipartisan vote is an important step in the right direction.

Final passage of the bill, however, is still far from assured. Amendments will be considered in the Senate that could undermine the bill by, for example, requiring jobless workers to meet burdensome new conditions to continue receiving benefits. Some Senators will likely propose offsetting the cost of the bill with cuts to other programs that low-income families depend on. And the bill will still need to garner 60 votes to pass in the Senate, then pass the House, before it can reach the President’s desk. Read more »

Welcome Back, Congress. Now Let’s Get to Work and Renew UI.

It’s the first Monday in 2014. I’ve taken down the decorations, put away the gifts, and made my resolutions – but the surest sign that the holidays are officially over is that Members of Congress are returning from recess. And that’s a good thing, because they have a lot of work to do.

Congress’s first priority for the new year should be renewing the federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) program for long-term jobless workers. Because Congress failed to reauthorize this program before the end of 2013, 1.3 million people and their families lost their benefits on December 28, and are now going without a crucial source of income. And if Congress fails to maintain the program this year, 3.6 million more workers will lose access to benefits by the end of 2014 – pulling billions of dollars out of the economy, slowing job growth, and placing families at risk of falling into poverty. Read more »

Proposed Budget Deal Would Prevent Some Harmful Cuts – But Threatens to Leave Unemployed Workers Out in the Cold

We have a deal – sort of.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) – who have been leading a new round of budget negotiations – have announced that they reached agreement on federal government spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014 as well as FY 2015. Given Congress’s propensity toward last-minute bargains in recent years, you may be a bit surprised that the announcement from Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan came a couple of days before their self-imposed deadline of December 13, and just over a month before current FY 2014 funding runs out on January 15. But there remains a lot more work to be done to ensure that we don’t face another government shutdown in January – and to make sure low-income women and their families are protected and unemployed workers aren’t left behind.

So what does the deal do? In short:

Read more »

Low-Wage Jobs Disproportionately Filled by Women and Long-Term Unemployment Remains Painfully High in November

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on unemployment and job growth for November. Here are the key take away points from NWLC’s analysis:

 Despite a month of strong growth, low-wage jobs were disproportionately filled by women:

  • In November, women’s strongest job gains were in education and health (+39,000), professional and business services (which includes the low-wage temporary help services sector) (+17,000), and retail (+15,600).
  • Men’s strongest job gains were in transportation and warehousing (+26,700), professional and business (+18,000), and manufacturing (+17,000).
  • In November, 24 percent of women’s job gains were in the low-wage sectors of retail and leisure & hospitality. Only 15 percent of men’s gains came in these two sectors. (Gender data on the temporary help services sector are not yet available for November).

Read more »

New Reports Weigh In On Unemployment Benefits: Program Creates Jobs, Boosts Economy

Counting down to the New Year is all about hope, celebration, and a fresh start – for most of us, anyway. This year, the clock is also ticking on federal emergency unemployment benefits, which are set to expire at the end of December. For families relying on these benefits, which supplement state unemployment insurance programs, the New Year is a very scary prospect. Read more »

The President’s To Do List

I believe that To Do lists are an art form. There’s nothing more beautiful than a list of things you need to get done with every single item crossed off of it. Crossing off an action item gives me such a sense of accomplishment that I usually put things I’ve already done on the list, just to cross them off.

In a major speech yesterday about economic mobility, President Obama shared one of his To Do lists with us. The items on this list are much more important than the ones on my usual lists. These items are the legislative and administrative priorities that will help fix the growing problem of income inequality in the United States.

Before sharing his “roadmap” with us, the President started with a reality check. He was blunt about the fact that our economy has become profoundly unequal and families have become more insecure. He drove home the point that we are living in a country that once promised success for those who worked hard, but is now faced with rapidly rising inequality and decreasing upward mobility in a way that “challenges the essence of who we are as a people.” Each fall NWLC analyzes the poverty data put out by the Census bureau, and those sobering statistics illustrate exactly what the President is talking about. I couldn’t agree more with the President when he said that these trends are bad for families, bad for the economy, bad for social cohesion, and bad for democracy. Read more »

Ending Emergency UI Benefits when Long-Term Unemployment is this High is Unprecedented

Making history? We certainly hope not.

U.S. levels of long-term unemployment – workers who have been looking for work for more than 26 weeks – remain at historic levels. The federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) program, which supplements state unemployment benefits, is set to expire in just over a month. In the past 40 years, Congress has not allowed federal emergency UI benefits to expire when the share of jobless workers who were long-term unemployed was above 23.1 percent. Currently, 36.1 percent, or 4.1 million Americans, are still looking for work after six months of searching.

If the federal emergency unemployment insurance program is not renewed, 2 million workers will lose their benefits in late December or run out of benefits in early 2014. NWLC’s new analysis on the importance of federal emergency UI benefits for women and their families shows that this expiration – which would be damaging to struggling families and bad for the economy – would be also be unprecedented.

Federal Emergency Unemployment Benefits in Response to Recessions

There’s a lot of information packed into this chart. Here are three key takeaways: Read more »