Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Washington Beat: As Long-Term Unemployed Numbers Drop, House Benefits Bill Stalls

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Last week’s encouraging economic news could mean bad news for the millions of unemployed Americans who've been looking for work longer than six months. Washington Bureau Reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.

The latest numbers from the Labor Department show the country’s legion of so-called long-term unemployed workers has dropped by 26 percent in the last year.

Those are encouraging statistics, but ones that undercut the argument Washington Democrats have been making for months to extend the federal long-term unemployment benefits. Those checks used to kick in once the state benefits ran out.

“Renewing these benefits is simply the right thing to do at a time when millions of American families continue to teeter on the brink in states where unemployment remains stubbornly high,” said Sen. Patty Murray in January.

The Senate passed a bill, but Republican leadership in the House refused to bring a vote to the floor.

Conservatives argued that losing benefits forces the jobless to get work. They say the latest unemployment numbers prove them right.

But many economists take a more measured view.

"We really don't know in terms of the research evidence. We some instances in which yes, people are going back to work right when the unemployment benefits are ending. But there’s also thinking in the economics profession that this gives people a chance to really get a job where they have the best fit," American University Assistant Professor Bradley Hardy.

Hardy says those benefits give the jobless time to find work that matches their skills and interests and when they do, there's less employee turn-over.

"And this allows our economy in the long-term to grow at a faster rate and to really operate at what we think of as its full potential," Hardy says.

Meanwhile, both parties are getting behind new efforts to improve job training and encourage companies to hire the unemployed.

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