unemployment lomg-termEmployment data released Nov. 5 from the Labor Department showed some heartening numbers for job-seekers. Private employers added 159,000 jobs in October, the best showing in five months.

Still, as analysts are quick to point out, the economy needs to generate many more jobs before the U.S. can begin digging itself out of its employment hole. After shedding some 8 million jobs amid the Great Recession, employers need to add more than 200,000 new positions monthly to start making a dent in the nation's stubborn 9.6% unemployment rate -- and that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

As Friday's employment report noted, some 6.8 million Americans, or 42%, of jobless workers are considered long-term unemployed. That is, they've been without work for more than 27 weeks, just beyond the standard period for which those who've been laid off can claim unemployment benefits.

Meager Amounts but Still a Lifeline

With so many people unemployed, Congress has repeatedly acted to ensure that those who can't find work can at least continue to claim jobless benefits beyond the 26-week maximum by passing benefits extensions. As meager as they may be -- an average $293 a week -- the payments do provide a lifeline, allowing unemployed workers to at least feed themselves and their families and pay utilities, even if they can't pay rent or the mortgage.

Come the end of November, however, some 2 million of those jobless folks won't be able to rely even on that measly sum unless Congress acts once more. Nov. 30 is the deadline to file for federal unemployment benefits, and unless lawmakers act to extend the deadline, some 800,000 people will stop getting checks within four days, according to the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Federal jobless payments, which kick in after the state-funded 26 weeks of benefits expire and last up to 73 weeks, have led to charges from some conservative lawmakers that extending benefits up to 99 weeks gives people little incentive to look for work and adds to the nation's ballooning deficit. That has prompted Republicans to block previous extensions, such as one that expired at the end of May.

Retailers Beware


President Obama has already weighed in, saying it's imperative that Congress act to extend benefits. "It is very important that we're not taking a whole bunch of money out of the system from people who are most likely to spend that money on goods, services, groceries, buying a new winter coat for the kids," the president said during Wednesday's post-election press conference.

A lapse in jobless benefits also poses a threat to retailers, most of whom rely on holiday sales for as much as 80% of their annual revenues. A cutback in consumer spending will result not only in fewer sales but reduced hours for the thousands of temporary workers employed during the holiday period.

Fewer dollars spent at the mall would only imperil the sputtering economy. Economic growth would be reduced by as much as 0.4 percentage points from December through February should the benefits end, economist Zack Pandl at Nomura Securities International told Bloomberg News.

Not a Good Time for Stoicism

Still, Tuesday's elections, which gave control of the House of Representatives back to Republicans, could further embolden conservative lawmakers' efforts to stymie an extension of benefits when Congress reconvenes Nov. 15, unless a way is found to pay for them.

"In order to get previous extensions done, there has been a requirement to get costs offset," Goldman Sachs (GS) economist Alec Phillips told Bloomberg. Republicans, he said, "would be more inclined to keep that requirement."

For unemployed workers who'll have to endure such political gamesmanship, the GOP's stoicism couldn't come at a worse time. With winter looming, the coming days and weeks won't just be colder but also filled with growing uncertainty and fear at a time of when many Americans prefer to celebrate.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Banking Services 101

Understand your bank's services, and how to get the most from them

View Course »

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

889 Comments

Filter by:
World Buyers

For the 14.8 Million unemployed, let's begin a March on Washington D.C. Let's camp on the steps of Congress until they get the message to pass a 24 month extension of unemployment benefits. Many of them are millionaires so why do they care about the unemployed? See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/f0yiIl

November 30 2010 at 7:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tcorchid

thanks republicians- I am sending your voting records instead of christmas presents. Retails can thank you for a flat buying season, because of the lack of money... maybe someday you can live in the real world-- after you give the rich supporters their extended tax cuts. By the way I DO WORK ,,, and its a job I bet you would never take,,,,,

November 24 2010 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wendy

Costs keep rising, especially insurance. This year, I raised the deductible on the homeowners. There is no money to repair anything, and even with no mortgage, I worry about paying taxes, insurance, utilities, and "incidentals" like fees. I haven't bought a new pair of shoes in two years - I keep recycling the old ones. No new clothes, and no money for used ones! No money to repair those broken crowns. No credit card bills, no risky stock-market mistakes - why are we going into debt each month? Neither us us (there are two) can find a full-time job; we are only working a few hours each week. I WORK WHEN THEY CALL, AND I AM ON-CALL EVERY DAY, ALL DAY. I get paid once-a-month, even though it gets deducted the prior month from my unemployment benefits. My partner gets NO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. Without my continued unemployment benefits, there is NO HOPE. HELP. Is anyone out there listening?

November 09 2010 at 5:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vpolicano

Banday shut the hell up. As ignorant as u sound I hope your children and grandchildren don't have to go thru this.

November 09 2010 at 1:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vpolicano

MY HUSBAND IS ONE OF THE 99ERS. He cant get a job washing dishes. He worked for US Play card and they had many job elemations, all high paying jobs. Then they pack up and move to KY and pay KY miniumum wage. I have MS and we have a daughter. The income stops the the rent and bills don't. Have no family to turn to. So what do we do shrivel up and die? This is no longer the United States of America or this would not be happening.

November 09 2010 at 1:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vpolicano

MY HUSBAND IS ONE OF THE 99ERS. He cant get a job washing dishes. He worked for US Play card and they had many job elemations, all high paying jobs. Then they pack up and move to KY and pay KY miniumum wage. I have MS and we have a daughter. The income stops the the rent and bills don't. Have no family to turn to. So what do we do shrivel up and die? This is no longer the United States of America or this would not be happening.

November 09 2010 at 1:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
otterdad48

For thirty years wages have remained flat against rising costs of living at the same time the percentage of wealth held by the top 1% has grown to previously unknown levels. In fact the only time in American history when wealth distribution has been even close to the present inequality is at the brink of the Great Depressin. For capitalism to be sustainable there has to be a mechanism that execess unearned increment accrued to the top of the economic food chain is reinvested and not gambled away in market speculation. We need short term capital gains reform now to reward the creation of living wage jobs here in America and to discourage the hoarding of capital.

November 09 2010 at 7:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
claws67639

What a hack job,hard times is what you save for to get through not for the rest of us to deplete our savings and emg monies on people who did not. Remember who has been in charge since Jan-2007!

November 09 2010 at 6:31 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to claws67639's comment
Wendy

?? I assume you are talking about "reckless spenders" although I am not sure. Gosh, I am not a reckless spender. Don't have to worry about foreclosure, since I haven't had a mortgage in almost ten years. I haven't bought a new pair of shoes in two years - I keep recycling the old ones. Worked and saved, stayed in the military reserve for twenty years so I could have benefits. No credit card bills, no risky stock-market mistakes. Why am I going into debt now? Could it be because I can't find a full-time job? I work, whenever I get called - last week it was 16 1/2 hours. Can't pay the rest of the bills on this. It all gets deducted from my unemployment. Without that, there will be no money for gas or food. HELP. Is anyone out there listening?

November 09 2010 at 5:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Gorgeous

David Schepp's article is more of a politcal opinion than an article written by a legitimate journalist. He bemoans the new GOP leadership (that was just voting into office last week), suggesting that if the unemployed have a hard time celebrating the holidays this year, it's because of the GOP not extending unemployment benefits. Um . . . kehem . . . Mr. Schepp, I hate to wake you from your twisted political dreamland, but the new GOP leadership won't have power until January of next year, Sir. So if the unemployed can't celebrate the holidays this year because their unemployment benefits ended, it's not the fault of the GOP. My, how low biased, left-wing journalists will go to defame the political right! It's actually pretty pathetic. You, Mr. Schepp, are not a legitimate journalist. You're obviously a spin-meister who tells half-truths hoping to deceive your readers into adopting your biased, twisted political views. How do you sleep at night?

November 09 2010 at 6:01 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
bandy4321

There should be stipulations with those unemployment checks. Wow, another 1-1/2 yrs of sitting around and NOT looking for work! Companies that wanted workers to come back have said that the unemployed don't want to work...they can collect about what they make anyway with taxes being taken out. Also you can include food stamps, free medical and etc etc. Why work?

November 09 2010 at 5:54 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to bandy4321's comment