Unemployment Benefits: To Extend or Not?

Accurate and efficient methods for separating those diligently seeking employment from those milking unemployment benefits need to be stringently applied.  The December 28, 2013 cut of extended unemployment benefits from 47 weeks back to 26 has caused much debate.  Those in favor argue that cutting extended unemployment benefits will cause job seekers to be more diligent in their searches and to consider options outside of their preferred work zone to include part-time opportunities and relocating, and that the cut will shave $26 billion from the U.S. budget.  Those opposed argue that unemployment checks are often quickly spent and a stimulus to the economy, and that it is unreasonable to expect to not have long-term unemployed because there are more unemployed than there are employment opportunities.

 On January 6, 2014 bipartisan legislation to again extend benefits to the long-term unemployed will be debated.   To help qualify the arguments, here are some statistics.

 Nationally the unemployment rate is 7 percent.   North Dakota, at 2.6 percent, is the state with the lowest unemployment, and Nevada and Rhode Island, each at 9.0 percent, have the highest unemployment.  Employers in Bismarck, North Dakota, for January 2, 2014, advertised on Craigs List four part-time employment opportunities.  Las Vegas, Nevada advertised 46 part-time employment opportunities, and six in Elko.  Rhode Island advertised 133 part-time employment opportunities.  In the median range of unemployment, Washington is at 6.8 percent, and South Carolina is at 7.1 percent.  Employers in Seattle, Washington on January 2, 2014, advertised on Craigs List 155 part-time employment opportunities.  And Columbia, South Carolina employers advertised 80 part-time employment opportunities.  Considering January 2 is at the end of the holiday season, and that only opportunities advertised part-time on Craigs List were counted, the opinion that cutting unemployment benefits will stimulate job seekers to be more diligent and to consider options is qualified. 

 Shaving $26 billion from the federal budget is good.  Presumably, those unemployed who remain unable or unwilling to find work will end up on public assistance.  Therefore, again, cutting extended unemployment benefits is qualified. 

 Working provides rewards beyond those of unemployment.  Working creates opportunities for continued greater income for the individual, for education that will in the long run enhance the livelihood of individuals as well as stimulate the U.S. economy, and for the creation of future employment opportunities.  Arguing that unemployment checks are an economic stimulus is defeatist and not qualified. 

 Able persons, unwilling to contribute to the U.S. economy, do not deserve benefits.  If, indeed, there are many, many more unemployed than opportunities available then something must change for the long-term unemployed.  But, this theory is not much supported by the statistics above, and therefore it is not qualified.

 The current system for individuals to obtain unemployment benefits is a disaster in that it is seemingly not well monitored and easily duped.  Improper unemployment payments that state governments knew about and reported to the federal government averaged 8.67 percent nationwide of the total paid from July 2012 through June 2013.  The amount of money actually stolen from the public by loafers and scammers is undoubtedly in the millions, if not billions. 

 Concepts for improving unemployment payment systems include re-evaluation of eligibility requirements after the first 13 weeks that require beneficiaries to apply for part-time employment and for opportunities outside of their preferred fields and locations, stricter monitoring procedures to ensure beneficiaries are diligently and consistently seeking employment, and enhanced penalties and prosecution for abusers and fraudsters.  Unemployment payments are not a cure, they are short-term assistance benefits, and the recession is over.  In 2014 the job market is expected to grow, so unemployment payments should shrink. 

 Joan Brown ~ NEWSslinger.com contributor