Unemployment remains high, still no Extended Unemployment Benefits
San José, CA – On June 6, the Labor Department released the May report on the job market. While the unemployment stayed the same at 6.3%, a broader measure, called the labor force participation rate, remained at a 35 year low, of 62.8%. The labor force participation measures both those working and looking for work as a fraction of the adult population. At 62.8%, this is lowest rate since March of 1978, when far fewer women were in the workforce.
Last January, Republicans in Congress blocked extension of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or EUC. This program provided unemployment benefits to jobless workers whose state unemployment insurance benefits had run out after six months. Over a million jobless workers lost their benefits in January and by now the number is more than 2 million.
Republicans, using free-market economic theory, argued that the EUC benefits were an 'incentive' not to get work, ignoring the facts that there is still a lack of jobs and unemployment insurance on average only covers 30% of one’s wages. But the reality is that the end of extended unemployment insurance benefits just discouraged workers and many gave up looking. They were no longer counted as unemployed (thus helping to push down the unemployment rate from 6.6% in January to 6.3% in May), and in turn pushed down the labor force participation rate.