The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 2      January 20, 2014

Congress divided over extension
of benefits for long-term jobless
(front page)
Congress’ Happy New Year’s greeting to 1.3 million jobless workers was to let their federal unemployment compensation run out.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which started during the recession in 2008, provides federal benefits of up to 47 weeks after 26-week coverage by most states expire. The program has been extended by Congress more than 10 times amid persistent record-high levels of long-term joblessness. Just one in four workers the government counts as unemployed now receive jobless benefits — the smallest proportion in half a century.

Many previous extensions were passed with little discussion, but the program has become increasingly contentious and divided along party lines in Congress. A Senate vote Jan. 7 to open debate on whether to restart the program for three months — which the Barack Obama administration is pushing for — received just enough votes to pass.

Meanwhile, state jobless benefits are slated to expire for another 1.9 million workers over the next six months.

In one example of how useless government jobless figures are for providing any feel for what working people face, Labor Department statisticians have pointed out that cutting federal jobless payments to 1.3 million workers would result in a lower official unemployment figure.

“Economists expect that the end of the emergency jobless benefits will, surprisingly, lead to a sharp drop in the unemployment rate, by as much as 0.5 percentage points,” reported the New York Times, as workers “drop out of the labor force. Those receiving unemployment benefits are required to demonstrate that they are actively looking and applying for jobs. Without those benefits, and requirements, economists said, many might give up.”

Millions of workers have already dropped out of the workforce, lowering official unemployment figures to 7 percent in November. Meanwhile, the percentage of the population with a job has remained around 58.5 percent for the last four and a half years — about 5 percentage points lower than it was prior to the 2008-2009 recession.

Here is another angle of how the jobs crisis devastating workers lives is looked at from the capitalist point of view: “Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars.”

We are inputs, either on the factory floor or as “consumers” who hopefully don’t cut back our spending, despite declining living standards.

For the capitalists, the impact of high unemployment on the lives of working people is not a concern. They would much prefer a situation of expanding production and trade, which allows them to turn greater profits by hiring more workers. But when the opposite is the case, they have no reason to hire. And the increased competition for jobs during such periods tends to make workers less confident and combative, providing the bosses greater leverage in their drive to maximize profits at our expense.
Related articles:
Profit drive of oil, rail bosses behind train wreck in ND
Garment workers fight for higher wages in Cambodia:
Protests subside after government crackdown
On the Picket Line
Boeing Machinists ratify 8-year concession contract
New pattern of struggle developed in partial recovery of 30s
Only workers can enforce safety
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