Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance (UI) is an essential part of the American social safety net. UI gives laid-off workers time to find or retrain for a new job while ensuring their purchasing power (this is especially important during economic downturns).  The federal government first established nation wide coverage with the Social Security Act of 1935. Under this system states play a crucial role, jointly financing and administering the program with the federal government. Generally, benefits last a total of 26 weeks. During recessions extensions are typically issued, although conservatives often attempt to block the legislation.



Screwing the Jobless: Are Republicans Heartless or Just Playing Hardball Politics?

July 20, 2010

Cry Wolf Quotes

Employers pay men, not machines. Can there be any question but that this and similar legislation will drive industry faster and faster toward mechanization? Can there be any question but that its normal tendency will be to depress wages, since the higher the total pay roll, the greater the taxes? Can there be any question but that it will retard reemployment of men and intensify the development of machinery and its substitution for men?

John C. Gall, Associate Counsel National Association of Manufacturers, Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

…finally, it is paternalistic and incompatible with our fundamental conception of democracy.

James L. Donnelly on Behalf of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

The fact is that one of the reasons why our business leaders, large and small and in almost every kind of business, are fearful of the future is because of the well-defined campaign of a very few people to foist upon this country a complete scheme of compulsory social insurance. The little group—and it is astonishingly small in numbers, though tremendously vocal—is largely of foreign origin, a substantial part of the advocates of this system coming from Germany and from countries lying further east.

M. K. Hart, president of the New York State Economic Council, New York Times.
04/11/1933 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

There is probably no greater need at the present time than for opportunity of employment. Through a long period in our country both law and public opinion reflected the universal approval and the good will felt toward those capable of giving employment to men and women who needed jobs. Yet, the imposition of this tax would be a complete reversal of that attitude. It would indicate either that employment is held undesirable and should be discouraged, or else it could properly be considered as an attempt to penalize unemployment.

Merwin K. Hary, New York, NY, President, New York State Economic Council, Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

Related Laws and Rules


Backgrounders & Briefs

Unemployment Policy Brief: Shermer

By Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, PhD, February 2010

Unemployment insurance benefits – including  their length, eligibility, and expense – are again in the spotlight.  The arguments are hardly new.


Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) is a progressive think tank that concentrates on social and economic policy, both domestic and international.

The National Employment Law Project is an organization that promotes economically just public policy in the face of the prevailing trends of the law several decades.