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Vol. 72/No. 51      December 29, 2008

More unemployed workers
excluded from jobless benefits
MINNEAPOLIS—Growing numbers of workers are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain unemployment benefits. Only 35 percent of workers the federal government officially counts as unemployed currently receive these benefits, down from 44 percent in 2001, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said December 6. Fifty years ago the figure was 55 percent.

Fewer than 15 percent of low-paid workers receive benefits, according to the Government Accountability Office. In Texas last year only 19 percent of unemployed workers received benefits.

Currently 10.3 million workers, or 6.7 percent, are unemployed according to U.S. Labor Department figures. This number greatly understates the actual figure. It does not include 1.9 million workers the government claims have not been searching for jobs, nor 7.3 million involuntarily working part-time. Including them means that 12.5 percent of the workforce is unemployed or underemployed.

The state and federal governments set conditions for eligibility for benefits. Those who don’t qualify include many part-time workers, those who quit or were fired, and workers who didn’t earn enough money in a one-year “base period,” which often excludes the most recent three to six months.

In addition, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies reports that 30 state governments may run out of funds to pay unemployment benefits. “Funds in two states, Indiana and Michigan, have already dried up, and both states are borrowing from the federal government to make payments to the unemployed,” the New York Times said December 15.
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