I’ve also read and heard stories of situations where individuals were unable to obtain a position in their respective field but as the economy improved, were able to obtain positions in lower level situations and chose to continue collecting the unemployment. Anybody who has collected unemployment insurance knows that some paying jobs provide less money than is available by collecting a government check. There is also the chance that the new job may not work out leaving one in a worse situation than if you have never taken the job in the first place.
I know of one medical worker who had been collecting unemployment; the company that I was working for had an open position with a client and we sent her for interviews. She was offered the position; apparently the recruiters for the company that I had been working for knew that the management at the client was problematic but chose not to relay that information to the candidate. The medical worker accepted the temporary position and within a few weeks we were receiving phone calls with complaints of how she was being treated by management. The representatives of the company that I worked for were ‘coaching’ this medical worker…to no avail. She decided to quit and then she filed for UC benefits again. However, this time she was denied. As the Human Resources’ representative for my former employer, I agreed with the medical worker…we had an obligation to inform her of the circumstances she may be working under. I went to an Appeal Hearing in her defense. The UC Moderator refused the Appeal, even though I stated my position. It turns out that as long as there were no ‘physical’ threats to this medical worker, she should have remained in the position…As a compassionate member of the Human Resources community, I truly sympathized with this woman. It took her a while to find another position and she genuinely wanted to work.
As I write this, Pennsylvania Unemployment is 5.8%…in the middle of the ‘pack’ for the country but a bit below our neighbors…actually, we are rising a bit and that is playing into the gubernatorial race. However, Pennsylvania is still better than most of the surrounding states: NJ is 6.6, DE is 6.5, MD is 6.4, NY is 6.4, WV is 6.6…Ohio is a slight bit better at 5.7.
Most people who receive jobless benefits don’t abuse the system and most economists normally support the idea of unemployment insurance when it functions as a short-term way of helping workers stay in their homes and keep food on the table during the down time between jobs. Federal unemployment benefits were in place for nearly five (5) years, with Washington committing more than $200 billion in jobless aid, on top of more than $250 billion spent by the states, which typically fund such programs. Economists also tend to believe that generous jobless benefits probably keep unemployment higher than it would otherwise be. Some studies even show that unemployment levels tend to rise around the same time benefits ends, which suggests that people max out their benefits prior to seriously looking for work. It is not clear, though, what percentage of the unemployed behave this way or if it even affects the overall economy.
At this point in time, the ‘blame the victim’ crowd has received most of everything they wanted. Long term unemployment benefits have been slashed or eliminated. We still have rants against the few that are collecting unemployment but the duration is generally only six (6) months and the UC is less than the 2003 level. Only 26% of jobless Americans are receiving any kind of unemployment benefits, the lowest level in many decades. I think that America has, more or less, abandoned its out of work citizens.
Why is there such a strong animosity against the unemployed? Such a strong conviction that they are getting away with something? This is a time when the unemployed are actually being treated with an unprecedented harshness. And what about those companies, especially Staffing/Recruiting organizations that fight every UC claim, no matter how valid it may be. Or those employers who want to ‘beat’ the system by ‘laying off’ or ‘firing’ employees and then offering to pay them ‘cash’ to come back and ‘help’ them through the ‘transition’. Yes, these employers who want to beat the system do exist; just as the ‘lazy’ unemployed exist.
Paul Krugman recently reminded us in a New York Times’ Op Ed that cruelty toward the victims of disaster, especially when the disaster goes on for an extended period of time, is common in history. I just don’t think that this behavior is or should be part of the American story. Even conservatives back in the 1930’s embraced the ‘New Deal’ and stated that ‘caring for the unemployed until recovery is attained’ was the ‘plain duty’ of government. What we really need to do is to somehow try to insure that the lazy don’t hurt the needy. We don’t want to be a nation that believes that if you are poor or unemployed, it is your fault.