A recent article proposed that fewer unemployment claims this month are a sign of economic recovery and improvement. I wish journalists would stop buying into this lie.
While I can see how one could surmise that fewer people seeking new jobless applications is suggestive of fewer people being laid off, I’m concerned that the bigger picture is being glossed over.
How Unemployment Insurance Works
Though the specifics vary from state to state, the basics of unemployment insurance remain constant. An individual who is terminated through no fault of their own (i.e. they didn’t steal from the company, etc.) can choose to apply for benefits.
Should it be determined that the individual is eligible for benefits, a ‘wait period’ ensues (typically two weeks), after which point that individual receives weekly or bi-monthly payments. These funds may be directly deposited into an individual’s bank account, or they may be issued a check or debit card.
Most states have a ‘benefit cap’ that dictates the number of weeks an individual may claim benefits, a predetermined benefit amount, or both.
How Much Will I Get?
For the sake of ease, I will create an example using rounded numbers.
Consider someone applies and is approved for unemployment benefits. They receive a weekly, post-taxes payment of $400, with a 14-week cap. This translates to a total benefit cap of $5,600. Once that cap is reached, and considering Congress has not granted an extension of benefits, the individual is essentially out of luck.
Further, should the individual in this example require more than a monthly total of $1,600 to make ends meet, that person will need to either find another income source (job, savings, etc.) or modify their lifestyle to decrease and/or eliminate expenses.
Of course, the intent of unemployment insurance is not and has never been to “hand out free money,” as accused by certain lawmakers. Instead, the goal is to assist individuals monetarily, as they take the necessary steps to re-enter the workforce. But what happens when things don’t go according to plan?
Out of Work, Out of Benefits, Out of Luck
Because, regrettably, we don’t live in a perfect world, and because even the best laid plans sometimes go awry, there exists for many a situation of long-term unemployment. Individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, are ineligible to reapply for benefits, and yet are still out of work do not appear in any statistics.
Therefore, the notion that fewer weekly requests for benefits is somehow an indication of economic recovery and improvement is positively asinine. Simply put, people are still out of work, they’ve just been forced to drop off the radar.
As an analogy, consider you pick a bushel of apples and find three rotten ones. Just because you discard the spoiled fruit, it would be erroneous to tell your neighbor that you scored a fruit basket entirely free of defects.
Let’s Get Real
It is not necessary or beneficial to further belabor the point. Further, it is unlikely that lawmakers will take into account the true gravity and reality of the situation any time soon.
Instead, they will continue to ignore the so-called ‘working poor,’ the long-term unemployed, those whose benefits have ended and yet are still out of work, and the countless other scenarios which unfortunately play out for hard-working, talented, driven individuals each and every day.
And the reason why the true story will never be told is that it’s easier to paint a rosy picture than to offer an accurate portrayal of any situation. It’s easier to turn a blind eye to the reality of things, instead of seeing them for what they really are. It’s easier to allow your constituents to believe you are a stalwart for the working class, rather than allowing them to discover the pitiful fact that you have shamefully turned your back on your own community in the name of personal and professional advancement.
So, next month the lies will again be told, and a large number of Americans will again be duped into thinking that everything is okay. But the sad truth will remain in the shadows. And until this country finally admits what’s really going on, we will all be forced to endure the shame of this economic wasteland.
by Peter P. Gaseoustania
Residential Life Magazine