WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–More than 300,000 workers newly unemployed in November will spend the holidays knowing that they won’t have access to federal jobless benefits. They join the millions of unemployed workers slighted by the House and the Bush administration when they failed to renew the extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits, said an employment advocacy group Dec. 6.
“Even as the Bush administration reshuffles its economic team today, it will not admit that long-term unemployment is a serious threat to the sputtering economy,” said Maurice Emsellem, director of public policy for the National Employment Law Project. He was referring to the resignations of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and economic adviser Larry Lindsey as part of high level attempts to blunt political fall-out the president might face as the economy sputters along.
“Today’s news that unemployment has reached a recession high of six percent should be a wake-up call to the Bush administration that it made a serious mistake by not supporting the extension of federal aid to the nation’s 8.5 million jobless,” added Mr. Emsellem.
The program will expire three days after Christmas, immediately stripping benefits from more than 833,000 workers with thousands to follow. The House and the administration chose not to continue federal unemployment benefits, despite little evidence that the labor market had improved since the policy was enacted in March.
The Dec. 6 data from the Department of Labor shows long-term unemployment is higher now than it was in March when the legislation was enacted. Those unemployed more than six months increased again this month, to 1.734 million people, up from 1.333 in March 2002 when the extension was enacted and up from 696,000 when the recession began in March 2001.
“The leadership of the House of Representatives and the president have turned a blind eye, not just to those families hardest hit by the recession, but also to decades of proven economic policy,” said Mr. Emsellem. “Failure to extend benefits not only hurts individual workers but strips areas hit hardest by unemployment of federal dollars needed to sustain their economies.”
When unemployment benefits expire on Dec. 28, so will the flow of new money, the group said. According to a National Employment Law Project analysis, every week that the program is no longer in place, states will lose $200 million in hard cash that is pumped right back into their economies. “When workers spend unemployment dollars on basic goods, the money ripples through the economy creating new business. National studies have shown that each $1 of unemployment income leads to $2.15 of economic growth,” the group said.
“During past recessions, Congress has acted to extend unemployment insurance benefits for longer durations to protect workers and direct money into struggling local economies,” said Emsellem. “In these uncertain times, restoring federal benefits should be the first priority of the new Congress and the Bush administration’s new economic stimulus plan.”