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People stand in a line that stretched around the block to enter a job fair held at the Jewish Community Center in March 2012 in New York City. Congress has until December 28th to extend unemployment benefits.
An eligible unemployed worker could typically receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits. Congress put in place the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program in 2008 that extended jobless benefits to long-term unemployed workers for up to 99 weeks. The program has been renewed multiple times since.
The deadline for this year’s extension is December 28 and 1.3 million Americans would be affected if the program expires. President Obama has called on Congress to push through the extension, which has become a sticking point in the latest budget deal negotiations between the two parties to avoid another government shutdown. Democrats vowing to vote down any budget proposal without a jobless benefits extension, but many Republicans are resistant to the idea. Their rationale could best be summed up by senator Rand Paul’s characterization of an extension as being a “disservice” to workers.
With November’s better-than-expected jobs report and the current national unemployment rate at a 5-year low of 7%, should extended unemployment benefits be continued?
Gary Burtless, a senior fellow of Economic Studies at Brookings Institution. He worked as an economist at the US Department of Labor from 1979 to 1981
Casey Mulligan, Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and the author of “The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy (Oxford University Press, 2012)