Surprising Numbers on Unemployment Insurance

In the midst of the battle over payroll taxes, another issue likely to be addressed before the end of the year is the expiration of extended unemployment insurance benefits.  Right now, those benefits are capped at 99 weeks – nearly two years.  Research suggests long-term unemployment benefits don’t stimulate the economy and may actually prolong high unemployment.  According to reports, some folks in Congress are finally beginning to think the same way.

Support for ratcheting down these long-term unemployment benefits is surprisingly broad.  According to a recent National Journal poll, just 29% believe unemployment benefits should remain at 99 weeks.  And while just 20% believe it should go back to the normal 26 weeks, 46% believe there should be a new limit, somewhere between 26 and 99 weeks.

But the demographic information is where it gets interesting: 

  • Republicans (51%) and 18-29 year olds (52%) show strongest support for finding a mid-ground between 26 and 99 weeks.  Females (49%) and Independents (48%) are close behind.
  • Aside from Democrats (43%) and non-Hispanic blacks (44%), support for retaining the 99 weeks is low across the board.  No other demographic group reaches 35% and most are firmly below 30% support.

Americans realize that unemployment benefits lasting for nearly two years are not sustainable.  Looking at the polling data, there is popular support for scaling this dysfunctional program back.  As with most things done by Congress, the real question is whether this is just rhetoric or a serious proposal.



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