Millions of jobless face loss of unemployment checks

As if the constant influx of rejection letters weren't enough to depress the all-too-many Americans who have had no luck finding jobs, some 1.3 million of them face losing weekly unemployment checks by year's end as benefits dry up.

In reaction to the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, states and the federal government have extended to payments to jobless workers, allowing some to claim benefits for up to 18 months. But for many, who lost their jobs earlier in the downturn, the specter of losing that support and a future with no money coming in whatsoever is very real.
Keeping unemployed workers afloat financially is key in helping to revive the economy. Amounts paid through jobless benefits is usually spent on household needs, rather than saved or used to pay down debt.

"It's definitely a valuable component of economic stimulus," Alan Auerbach, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, told USA Today.

More than 500,000 Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of September, according to the National Employment Law Project. That figure will triple by year's end unless lawmakers at the state or federal level authorize further extensions. NELP wants Congress to pass legislation that would provide an additional 10 to 20 weeks of benefits for workers in every state.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits in those states with high jobless rates. In July, the states with the top five highest unemployment rates were Michigan, Rhode Island, Nevada, Oregon and California.

More than 6 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007. The number of unemployed workers has risen 7.4 million and the unemployment rate has grown by 4.8 percentage points.

A government report Friday showed an increase in the nation's unemployment rate last month to 9.7%. Despite signs that the nation's economy is improving, analysts expect the unemployment rate to rise for months to come, likely surpassing 10% by early next year, making the need for Congress and the states to extend benefits an ever-pressing one for the millions who will soon find they have no financial support at all.

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