Last July, Jeffrey Dorfman discussed the battle that began near the end of 2013 over maintaining extended unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks. In Forbes Magazine the University of Georgia economics professor explained that during the debate the preceding December and January Congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama insisted that if the benefits were not extended, it would hurt workers who would lose benefits, but the nation’s economy would also suffer.
Adding a little background, he wrote: “After the 2007-2009 recession, Congress repeatedly authorized emergency extended benefits so that the unemployed could collect benefits for as long as 99 weeks [nearly two years]. When the extended benefits finally were allowed to expire in December 2013 they had lasted 20 months longer than following any previous recession. Yet, Democrats wanted to continue them even longer.”
But, he said, six months after the decision not to extend the benefits again, neither the unemployed nor the economy suffered as predicted, and in fact “the results have been quite positive.”
“Economic research seems to be clear that providing such extended unemployment benefits went beyond helping people transition to a new job,” wrote professor Dorfman, “instead allowing them to extend their job search. Instead of taking a job offer that might be suitable, unemployed people who still had some income thanks to Congress’ generosity looked for a great job. Thus, extending unemployment benefits led to higher unemployment and a slower recovery.”
Unemployment benefits are funded by an insurance premium paid by employers to provide benefits for a set period of time, which helps folks cope until they find a new job. In most states employees are covered for up to 26 weeks. During and immediately after a recession when unemployment rates are high, the federal government generally steps in and provides an extended period of benefits. However, in such cases, benefits paid after the period covered by unemployment insurance are paid for out of tax revenue, which is essentially welfare.
A recent study supports the professor’s assertion, this one by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which indicates that the labor market improvement President Obama so frequently uses to show his policies are working, occurred even though Congress did not follow the president’s wishes and extend the benefits again to 99 weeks. Rather than widespread doom and gloom, when extended benefits were not approved, job creation increased by about 1.8 million. NBER also noted that in 2013 the states with generous unemployment benefits created fewer jobs than the national average, but that job creation in those states increased in 2014 to above the national average when they cut back on benefits.
In examining this situation the Las Vegas Review-Journal opined: “Was long-term unemployment assistance necessary for some people? Yes. But, without question, millions of Americans at the margin – those who rejected offers to work for a little more than jobless benefits were worth, or those who supplemented jobless aid with under-the-table work in the gray economy – saw no point in re-entering the taxpaying workforce when they could be paid for so long to not work. And that simply wasn’t working for our economy.”
There is substantial support in these data for the idea that liberal/Democrat policies that are intended to help people beyond their actual need for help is good neither for the people they intend to help, nor for the best interests of the country at large.
The reality that government policies have failed shows up in the low level of people in the workforce who actually have jobs. The civilian labor force participation rate reflects the proportion of non-institutional civilians 16 to 64 years of age who are working or looking for work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months from April 2014 through February 2015, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013.
It has been 37 years since the participation rate was below 63 percent, back in March of 1978. In February, the number of work-eligible civilians not working or looking for work totaled nearly 93 million people.
BLS reported that the non-institutional population reached 249,899,000 in February, and only 157,002,000 of those were working or looking for work. The rest had become discouraged and stopped looking for a job.
So while job creation has been in positive territory lately, and the unemployment rate has dropped to near 5 percent, the economy has not produced enough jobs to get those 93 million people back to work, and when those numbers get figured in to the employment picture, the unemployment rate doubles.
The job market still has not returned to pre-recession levels nearly six years after the recession ended in 2009.
A vibrant economy depends upon people working and earning money they can spend on needs and wants. Business, not government, creates jobs. But government restricts job creation through over-regulation and high taxation.
Our elected leaders and bureaucrats seem immune from learning that less restrictive market conditions contribute to creating jobs.
James Shott is a columnist for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and publishes his columns on several Websites, including his own, Observations.