Without Congressional action, 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers will lose unemployment benefits from the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program by the beginning of 2014, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project. After that, another 850,000 workers will run out of state unemployment benefits by March. In total, 2.15 million will be cut off from income support.
The federal EUC program has been reauthorized 11 times since it was first enacted in June 2008, most recently in January of this year. The program makes sure those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer are still able to get benefits while they look for a job by extending them past the typical 26-week cutoff at the state level. Without reauthorization by the end of the year, that extra support will disappear.
Federal benefits have already been reduced thanks to sequestration by 15 percent with some state cuts going even deeper. North Carolina has been dropped from the federal program altogether because it cut the level of weekly benefits, violating its provisions.
But there are still 4.1 million people who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or more, only down about 8,000 from a year ago and accounting for about 37 percent of all unemployed workers. That figure is higher than at any time during the recession itself and has stayed above 4 million for more than four years. Today’s average worker has been out of a job for about 37 weeks.
The benefits are already pretty low, as the country has one of the stingiest programs in the developed world. Yet while opponents argue that they discourage people from seeking work, research has found that recipients actually work harder to find a job than those who aren’t in the program.
Unfortunately for the long-term unemployed, though, they’ll have a tough slog of it. Being out of work for six months has such a big impact that even if a worker has the right experience, she gets called for an interview less often that those who have a job but lack the same experience. A different study found that being out of work for more than nine months is equivalent to losing four years of experience from a worker’s resume. Yet the long-term unemployed don’t look much different than all other jobless workers; they just need a stronger labor market and some help while they search for a new job.