One theme the Republicans love to spread at every opportunity is that unemployment insurance benefits enable layabouts not to hunt for work. Y'know, it's so cushy living off those government paychecks that average 38 percent of individuals' earnings from their most recent job. The theory that receiving long-term benefits discourages people from seeking work, thus keeping the unemployment rate higher than it would have been in the absence of those benefits, has been given the academic treatment
by Jesse Rothstein. He found the impact of extended jobless benefits to be a raising of the unemployment rate by one-tenth of one percent. In other words, insignificant.
But the typically arid and arcane language of economics is no match for the story on the street:
At the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama more than 20,000 people have applied for one of the 877 job openings.
The surge of people applying may seem unusual, but it's not.
Take a look:
Last summer Ford had more than 18,000 people apply for one of 1,800 jobs at the retooled Louisville plant. That plant will open and start building the Edge SUV in mid-June.
In 2011, more than 41,000 applied for one of the 1,300 positions at the new Toyota plant in Tupelo, Mississippi.
In 2009, more than 65,000 applied for one of the 2,700 jobs at the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. Since opening, that plant has added shifts and is currently hiring another 820 workers.
Those particular jobs, most of them blue-collar jobs, are good ones by today's standards. But they aren't the only ones that generate line-ups out the door and down the block.
The reason for that can be seen in the chart from the Economic Policy Institute at the top of this post. When the series began in December 2000, the ratio was what now feels like a miraculous 1.1 to 1. But that was the Clinton boom. At one point in the summer of 2009, the figure was 6.9 to 1. Clearly, there has been a lot of improvement in the ratio of job openings to job seekers. It's now only 3.4 to 1. So the lines are shorter, but for the two-plus people standing in them who don't get the nod, the search for employment is no less painful.
And, as the budget deal cutting the duration of benefits takes a firmer grip as we move closer to September, the pain will worsen. By the end of June, nearly half a million Americans will have lost their unemployment benefits prematurely thanks to political maneuvering based on phony theories and election-year posturing.