For the week ending Oct. 19, the total number of Americans claiming compensation in all programs was 3,958,691. That includes the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program passed to extend benefits to the large numbers of long-term unemployed created by the Great Recession. For the comparable week of 2012, there were 5,078,237 persons claiming compensation in all programs.
Unless Congress moves to reauthorize the EUC, the National Employment Law Project estimates that some two million out-of-work Americans will lose their jobless aid by March 2014:
In the week between Christmas and New Year's, the 1.3 million workers currently receiving federal EUC will be abruptly cut off. Another 850,000 workers will run out of state unemployment insurance in the first three months of 2014, with no access to federal EUC.You're not hallucinating if reading those paragraphs seems familiar. We've been down this road several times before. In February 2012, for instance, Republicans—most of whom are none-too-keen on extended unemployment compensation anyway—managed to wrangle a congressional EUC reauthorization that sharply reduced the total number of weeks a jobless person can collect benefits in the program.
Moreover, the most recent data show that nearly half of workers receivng state jobless aid are still looking for work when that state aid ends; absent the federally funded EUC benefits, they would be without any addtional means of income support. Thus, failure to renew federal EUC would have devastating consequences for millions of unemployed workers and their families over the entirety of 2014.
Since March 2012, NELP points out, the average number of long-term jobless receiving benefits fell by half, "twice the rate of decline in the number of long-term unemployed workers." Long-term unemployed applies to anyone still looking for work after being jobless for at least 27 weeks. In September 2013, only 1.4 million long-term unemployed people were receiving EUC compensation, just 34 percent of the total. A year ago, 2.2 million, or 45 percent of the total, were receiving EUC compensation.
The situation has been exacerbated in a few states that have cut how long they will provide short-term compensation from the 26 weeks that was the national standard for half a century to 20 weeks or less. Some have also reduced how much compensation they will pay each week. The federal sequester has also reduced the average compensation check from $296 a week to $269 a week, although the actual amount varies widely depending on the state.