Record Low Unemployment Benefits and Lack of an Extension on the Table During Midterms

By | November 5, 2014 at 10:35 PM |

After Republicans declared a victory in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, achieving a near-historic dominance by exploiting frustration with President Obama, it is now up to them if extended unemployment benefits will see the light of day.

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Approximately ten months have passed since a program that extended state unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed was allowed to expire by Congress. During that time, millions of people who would have been eligible to receive another six months of unemployment benefits have been completely cut off from those benefits.

While there has been tremendous discussion regarding the extension of unemployment benefits, little progress has actually been made. Recent statistics from the Department of Labor indicate that the percentage of unemployed who are actually receiving benefits has hit a record low. Applications for unemployment benefits in the United States recently fell to 287,000, representing an 8-year low.

These numbers came at a time when the country was facing critical midterm elections. Around the country, candidates heading into the midterm election season faced significant challenges regarding the best ways to approach the subject of the economy. In many areas, that struggle has resulted in a blame game. This has proven to be particularly true in states facing tight Senate races.

In states where unemployment is on the rise, candidates remained fearful to bring up the subject, afraid of the potential consequences and the possibility that it could come back on them if they put the subject of the economy on the table.

In Republican-held states, Democrats remained concerned that placing too much emphasis on the economy could reflect poorly on them. Their counterparts in those same states fret that putting too much attention on the economy could paint a poor picture of the GOP. Traditionally, unemployment rates can play a significant role in gubernatorial races. This year, it is also important in terms of Senate races. The GOP needs to snag six additional seats in order to take control of the chamber.

The issue of the economy remains a difficult one for both sides, neither of whom seems to understand how the public might respond to such a blame game. As a result, neither side seems willing to destroy what is a delicate balance, at best. Due to that, no one is willing to pursue an obvious need for extended unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The national unemployment rate is currently 5.9 percent. While that is a historically low number on a national level, local unemployment rates have slowly increased in several states, including Georgia, Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Making matters even more problematic is the fact that each of those states faces sharply contested Senate races. Senate candidates appear to be reluctant to bring up economic news in states where unemployment benefits are on the decline.

With congressman seemingly unwilling to discuss the economy, the unemployment rate, and the lack of extended benefits, it is now left to Republicans to determine what actions to take to deal with economic woes. One thing is clear, and it is that it remains unlikely that any movement will be made toward extending unemployment benefits until after the midterm elections have concluded.

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