Word association game. I’ll go. I say, “9 months.” You say…?
Average period of unemployment.
Ouch. I know – I pulled a bit of a bait-and-switch and made my game decidedly un-fun. But honestly, far too many jobless workers around the country feel like they’ve been swindled, too, aware of government supports that were in place during previous periods of high unemployment. But now, when these workers most need support, some Members of Congress can’t be bothered.
For adult women and men who have lost a job and are looking for work, the average duration of unemployment is — remarkably — about 9 months. Clearly, a lot can happen in that time, and sometimes the results are great (a new baby! a new grade in school!). Other times, the results can be devastating, especially for unemployed workers whose state benefits typically last no more than six months.
We told you recently about the Witness Wednesday events that are being held outside the Capitol weekly, highlighting the pressing need for Congress to extend federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to provide a critical lifeline to jobless workers and their families. The federal program, which expired last December, looked like it might be renewed in April, when the Senate passed a bipartisan extension. But the House failed to take up the bill (although they did find time to prioritize corporate subsidies). When the program expired, more than 1.3 million workers lost their benefits immediately; today, that number has grown to over 3 million workers. And it just keeps going up, with an additional 72,000 losing benefits each week.
Today’s Witness Wednesday focused the spotlight on women workers dealing with long-term unemployment, and we listened to stories from women around the country who struggle to find money to pay the bills and feed their kids. While this crisis deeply affects both women and men, women typically earn less than their male counterparts and have a far greater likelihood of being single parents — making them that much more economically vulnerable when their unemployment benefits run out. We’ve released new analysis on the ways in which long-term unemployment affects women — and the results speak for themselves. Some (upsetting) key facts:
- Women 55 and older experience the highest rates of long-term unemployment and longest spells of unemployment, among women by age. About half are long-term unemployed, and unemployment for jobless women workers in this age group lasts an average of a year.
- Asian-American and African-American women are particularly hard hit, experiencing the highest rates of long-term unemployment and longest spells of unemployment, among women by race and ethnicity. Nearly half of Asian-American women are long-term unemployed, and unemployment for jobless Asian-American women lasts about a year on average.
- During an average month in 2013, 2.3 million children lived with a parent who had been seeking work for 6 months or more — triple the number in 2007.
- More than 1 in 3 families with a parent unemployed long-term were poor.
You should read the stories and watch the video online, because the voices of these struggling workers and their families deserve to be heard. And although Congress may be playing politics — passing even more tax breaks without paying for them, while still refusing to bring up a UI renewal — families in crisis know the truth: This is very much not a game.