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Today’s unemployment data shows that the situation is getting worse, just as Congress has allowed federal emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to expire. The national unemployment rate increased from the 9.6 percent rate held over the last few months to 9.8 percent in November. The number of long-term unemployed workers (i.e., those unemployed for 6 months or more) grew by more than 210,000. With only 39,000 jobs added last month, growth simply is not happening fast enough to reduce unemployment. The most alarming piece of news, however, was that the unemployment rate among all women (8.4 percent) is at its highest rate since the recession began — its highest rate in over 25 years.

These sobering statistics make clear that the nation’s most crucial priorities in the short term must be to create jobs and promote a sustainable recovery (not to reduce the deficit). A long-term extension of federal UI benefits is an essential piece of that recovery. Here are just a few of the many reasons why:

  • The Congressional Budget Office found that UI benefits are the most effective way to stimulate the economy.
  • The Department of Labor estimates that for every dollar invested in UI benefits, two dollars are put back into the economy.
  • UI benefits kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009, including nearly 1 million children.
  • Two million people, including 750,000 women, will see their UI benefits cut off by the end of this month if no action is taken to extend them. This means a huge income drop for many families; the typical household receiving federal UI benefits will see its income reduced by one third. In the 42 percent of households where the person receiving federal UI benefits is the sole wage earner, 90 percent of income will be lost.
  • Because of the economic activity generated by federal UI benefits, there were 800,000 more jobs in September 2010 than it would have without these benefits. If the federal benefits are not extended for a year, there will be approximately 600,000 fewer jobs by December 2011.

Unemployment rates are rising. Families are struggling. How much more bad news will it take to convince policymakers that we need to extend federal emergency UI benefits, not tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?

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