More than one million people lost their unemployment benefits this past Saturday, due to the expiration of the emergency program that Congress did not extend. AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs says that although the extension will be costly, it makes sense for Congress to extend unemployment benefits and that Congress should focus on unequal income shares and raising minimum wage to make long-term effects on the economy. According to Spriggs, Congress should stop worrying about the profitability of companies and the national deficit and start taking action to keep as many people as possible as active participants in the economy.
“Right now the problem is not the profitability of American corporations,” says Spriggs. “They’re very profitable right now. They don’t have enough customers. That’s why you don’t want to remove a million people from the customer lists of companies right now by stopping their unemployment benefits. They’re making people disappear from the statistics because they’re going to drop out of the labor market.”
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton says that finding a job is no easy task, and the extension benefit for the long-term unemployed needs to be reinstated. The longer one is without a job, the harder it will be to find a new job because employers tend to place preferential treatment on those who are more recently unemployed.
“The long-term unemployed, today, are the victims of the recession,” Norton says. “They’re people with skills, for the most part. They’re people who face discrimination. We’re finding that employers have a desired preference for the most recently unemployed, so the longer you’ve been unemployed, the harder it is [to find a job] and that means that some jurisdictions are actually passing anti-discrimination [legislation].”