With the United States economy adding new jobs even as unemployment rates continue to rise, President Obama offers to extend unemployment benefits for millions of out of work Americans. February 2014 saw the country’s unemployment rate rise to 6.7%.
This figure is, in spite of the fact that number of jobs created in the non-farm sector rose to 129,000, higher than anticipated by labor experts.
Unemployment Cut for Thousands of Californians During 2013 Holiday Season
Millions of unemployed workers who came to rely on their unemployment benefits saw them cut off in December 2013. This affected numerous people in some of the states that have been hardest hit by the recession.
For example, in California alone, more than 214,000 people were receiving unemployment benefits, and saw that money end just days after Christmas. The United States Labor Department expects that this figure will only continue to rise by the middle of the year as people are suddenly cut off, and left without the unemployment benefits they depend on.
Eastern States Hard Hit, Too
While its residents have collected more than $4.5 billion in federal jobless aid in the past 12 months, California is not the only state to be hit hard by unemployment benefits being cut off. 90,000 people in New Jersey, the 11th most populous state, lost their benefits. Over 127,000 New Yorkers saw their unemployment benefits disappear at the end of the year in 2013.
Bipartisan Efforts Needed
President Obama urged lawmakers to put aside their differences and address the needs of the American people who must deal with the shuttering of plants and manufacturers moving services out of the country.
In December 2013, he reached out to the two senators who proposed legislature designed to offer extended unemployment benefits. Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Senator Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, have introduced a bill that will extend these benefits.
A Reason to Pause
Before agreeing to extend benefits, it is expected that many Republicans, and even a few Democrats, will take a long and hard look at the latest job statistics.
With unemployment rates under seven percent, and new jobs being added to the economy at a rate that is greater than anticipated, some lawmakers might not see the necessity of extending unemployment benefits. Another issue that is sure to result in some contention is how the country is to pay for an extension of benefits.
Republicans Stall Aid
In early February 2014, Republican votes fell one short of the 60 that were needed to end what many term as a filibuster effort by the party so that benefits could be extended.
The reason why the senators could not agree on the necessity of extending those benefits boiled down to one reason: money. In spite of the assertions of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Majority Leader, that the benefits were paid for, many of his fellow Senators did not echo his confidence.
Congress Now in Recession
Both arms of Congress are now recessed until March 24, 2014. This means there will be no further action on extending unemployment benefits. An early February Gallup poll that surveyed 1,023 adults found that 25% state that unemployment is the top issue in the country today.
The state of the economy was cited as the number one issue by 20% of those surveyed. When Congress reconvenes, the Obama administration is expected to continue its push to have unemployment benefits extended.