Half Of America’s Unemployed Workers Are Collecting No Unemployment Benefits

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that 96,000 jobs were created last month, slightly under economists’ projections for 125,000 jobs. The job creation numbers for both June and July were revised down, but the unemployment rate also ticked down to 8.1 percent.

40 percent of the unemployed have been looking for work for six months or more. This chart shows how much of a problem long-term unemployment continues to be:

Despite this, the federal government has been slowly rolling back its extended unemployment benefits program. Currently, only half the unemployed are collecting benefits at all, according to the National Employment Law Center:

While it is natural to assume that most unemployed workers are eligible for UI benefits, at most, only two‐thirds of all unemployed workers received state or federal UI benefits at any time during the economic downturn. Today, less than half the nation’s 12.8 million unemployed workers receive some form of UI. Approximately 3.2 million collect state UI benefits, covering the first 26 weeks of unemployment, while an additional 2.3 million job seekers receive federal UI under the EUC08 program.

This is occurring because federal benefits phase out as states’ jobless numbers decline. Because states are seeing their jobs numbers improve — to levels that are by no means adequate — federal benefits are phasing out. That leaves workers with only 26 weeks of state benefits to use, which leaves them 13 weeks shy of the average duration of unemployment.


Unless Congress steps up, by 2013 more than two-thirds of the unemployed will collect no benefits. Finding a way to boost job creation is surely important, but it’s also important that, until the economy gets all the way back on its feet, those who lost jobs through no fault of their own do not have to go without life’s basic necessities.