A new study from Congress’ Joint Economic Committee (JEC) debunks the prevailing conservative notion that Unemployment Insurance (UI) dissuades people from looking for a job. “On the contrary,” the report finds, “beneficiaries of federal UI benefits have spent more time searching for work than those who were ineligible for UI benefits.” “In fact, since Congress enacted federal unemployment benefits, time spent looking for a job has tripled among the long‐term unemployed who are out of work as a result of job loss,” the report adds.
As this chart shows, while unemployment rose during the recession, people who received UI benefits spent more time looking for work than those who didn’t qualify for the federal program:
And this makes sense. Federal unemployment insurance requires recipients to actively look for new work, and also gives them more flexibility to do. Someone with no job and no UI benefits will likely have to focus first on paying bills on a day-to-day basis before finding a job for the long-term.
And while some studies have attributed UI benefits to marginal increases (less than 2 weeks) in the length someone remains unemployed, the JEC report concludes that this minor effect is “simply because some of those unemployed workers would have otherwise dropped out of the labor force, discouraged by lack of job prospects” were it not for their UI benefits.