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Reed Urges Congress to Preserve Unemployment Insurance

Washington – U. S. Senator Jack Reed,  leading a group of 32 senators,  urged Congress on Friday to extend unemployment protections for one more year.  In an effort to prevent more than 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers from losing their unemployment insurance at years end and to continue benefits extensions to those still unemployed after exhausting the initial 26 weeks, the group in a statement  asked Congress to reauthorize the extended Federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) program.

In a press release on Friday, the group noted that the average unemployment rate today is 7 percent, 1.4 percent higher than in 2008 when the Federal Extended  Unemployment Insurance (UI) was signed into law. The average duration of jobless insurance grew exponentially, now at 36.1 weeks, up from  17.1 weeks five years ago when the economic collapse began.

“Even as the nation’s economy continues to recover, Congress must do more to help create new jobs and sustain economic revitalization,” said Reed, who recently introduced the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Extension Act of 2013 to stabilize the economy and provide relief for both states and struggling families by extending federal UI benefits through 2014.  “Unemployment insurance is a critical lifeline for vulnerable families and our economy.  Preserving this program will help bolster consumer demand and provide some much needed economic certainty for businesses and families in need.  We need to make sure that reauthorizing the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is part of any budget or end of the year legislation that comes before the Senate.” 

Quoting the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the release went on to say, “the long-term unemployment rate is falling, but it’s still at 1.3 percent, which is twice as high as in any prior month when extended UI benefits were allowed to expire.  CBPP economists note that in each of the previous three recessions, federal unemployment assistance didn’t end until the long-term unemployment rate had dropped to around 1.3 percent.”

In a statement to Congressional leaders, the group of 31 Democratic and one Independent senators noted that the nation’s economic recovery was not complete and the need for UI support was crucial to its success.

Despite the tremendous uncertainty caused by the brinksmanship over funding the government and near-default, the economy has had 45 straight months of private sector job growth and created a total of 8.1 million jobs over that period.  However, we are still far from regaining the ground lost during the Great Recession.  The national unemployment rate has hovered around and over 7 percent and 10.9 million Americans are out of work and looking for a job.  Unemployed workers continue to face a daunting labor market, where for every one job opening, there are approximately 3 unemployed workers.  That’s why it’s imperative that we pass legislation that will get Americans back to work and that we don’t let unemployment insurance terminate at the end of the year.” 

Bringing the message home to Rhode Island, Reed’s release cautioned against not only further economic hardship for the unemployed, but the increase in unemployed in the state and across the country.

“A new study by the Council of Economic Advisers and the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the failure to renew UI  could cost our economy 240,000 jobs in 2014, including 1,284 in Rhode Island.”

According to the Rhode Island Department of Labor (DLT) the unemployment rate in the state was 9.2 percent in October, 2 points higher than the National average at 7.0 percent.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports both the number of unemployed persons, at 10.9 million, and the unemployment rate, at 7.0 percent, declined in November. The BLS current population survey (CPS) showed the unemployment rate for Rhode Island fell zero percentage points in October 2013 at 9.2 percent.

Joining Reed in the effort was U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.


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