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Three unemployed Americans for every one job opening, admits Obama adviser

Published time: January 08, 2014 09:40
Job seekers prepare for career fair to open at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey (Reuters / Mike Segar)

Job seekers prepare for career fair to open at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey (Reuters / Mike Segar)

In an effort to extend benefits to over one million Americans whose emergency unemployment coverage expired, a White House economic adviser said there is a 3-to-1 ratio in the number of unemployed looking for jobs.

Gene Sperling, leading economic adviser to President Obama and director of the National Economic Council, is pushing to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provided benefits to some 1.3 Americans before it was abruptly terminated on Dec. 28.

Although the Senate agreed to extend the program on Tuesday, political analysts say the House is unlikely to do the same.

Sperling rejected the notion that some Americans were able to “game the system,” in other words, receive benefits for as long as possible without making an honest effort to find work.

"Most of the people are desperately looking for jobs," he told CNN. "You know, our economy still has three people looking for every job (opening)."

There were a reported 3.925 million job openings for the month of October, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report from Dec. 10, while an estimated 11.3 million are unemployed. Incidentally, the figure represents those individuals who are actively searching for work, not those who have given up hope on finding employment.

To put it another way, that’s a ratio of 2.88-to-1 or, approximately 3-to-1, as Obama’s top economic advisor said.

“The worst legacy of the great Recession is that there is a crisis of long-term unemployment,” Sperling said. “People who have been unemployed for 6 months or longer are finding it most difficult.”

The financial hardships now facing long-term unemployed Americans, however, also affects their immediate dependents. For about 4.9 million Americans who are scheduled to have their long-term benefits terminated, an additional 9 million people they support would also feel the brunt of the cuts, the adviser mentioned.

This brings the total number of people affected by the termination of emergency unemployment benefits to about 14 million.

The unemployment insurance system, started in 1935, provides up to 26 weeks of benefits to unemployed workers while they hunt for a new job. The basic program in most states gives about half the amount of a worker’s previous wages, on average.

In June 2008, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that forced millions of Americans out of work, Congress enacted Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) that provided emergency benefit extensions until the end of 2013.

Members of Congress declined to renew the emergency unemployment program as part of the bipartisan budget deal before departing for the holiday recess.

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