Unless Congress extends two key unemployment-insurance programs, 2 million Americans are set to lose their jobless benefits in December. Another 1 million Americans will see their benefits disappear by April.
Can we place these numbers in context? Yes. The National Employment Law Project offers up this chart showing that by the end of 2013, nearly 75 percent of all unemployed workers will no longer receive jobless benefits:
About 3 million jobless workers will still receive benefits through state programs. But the two programs that are soon set to shrink are the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides up to 47 weeks of additional benefits (depending on a state’s jobless rate) and the Extended Benefits program, which provides another 20 weeks to certain eligible workers.
Recently, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the two federal unemployment programs could be extended for another year at a cost of $30 billion. Since unemployment insurance is a particularly effective form of stimulus — most workers spend the money fairly quickly — that would boost GDP by an estimated 0.2 percentage points.
Some people are on board: The White House asked for the full $30 billion extension in its opening bid on budget negotiations. And the Hamilton Project has a longer brief making the case for extending unemployment insurance — among other things, the group notes that there are still more than 3 unemployed workers for every job opening, twice the pre-recession level. So it’s unlikely that many of the workers losing their benefits will be able to find jobs next year.