Local 517 Washington County

New Jobs Numbers Show Why Congress Needs to Renew Unemployment Insurance

3.6 million long-term unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more

By Olivia Sandbothe

Last month’s employment figures are in, and things don’t look good. The economy added 113,000 jobs in January, well short of the 180,000 that economists said would be necessary to keep the recovery on track.

As Harvard economist Joe Fuller put it, “It still wasn’t the type of job growth numbers we experience even in an average recovery.”

Of course, this is hardly news to the 3.6 million long-term unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. There simply aren’t enough jobs. Until the economy picks up steam, the only thing that stands between the long-term jobless and destitution is federal unemployment insurance.

That’s why it’s so urgent that Congress extend unemployment benefits. Unable to overcome staunch GOP opposition, Congress stalled on the issue since the program expired in December. The partisan fighting carried on for months, and in the meantime, 1.7 million Americans lost their benefits.

It’s bad policy to make deep cuts to programs Americans rely on in the middle of a slow economy. The long-term unemployed don’t disappear once they’ve been dropped from insurance rolls. Plunging millions of people into financial crisis hurts economic recovery. Congress needs to renew unemployment insurance as soon as possible and make a real effort to put people back to work.

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