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

[The bill] tends to retard the increase of pay rolls, because of the absorption of this amount of money for taxation purposes; it retards the increase of employment also. It is a permanent tax, with no limit, regardless of economic conditions in general or of the individual company. In other words, it may be the last straw, as I said before, that puts this company over the line into bankruptcy.

Frank H. Willard, Worcester, MA, President, Graton & Knight Manufacturing Co., Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

The imposition on industry at this time of the tax burden contemplated by this measure would render business recovery absolutely hopeless. Manufacturing industry is now engaged in a desperate struggle in an effort to continue operations and provide jobs. Most industries have been operating at a loss for several years. Industry is not prepared at this time to accept the added burden as contemplated by this bill.

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

This bill will cause further migration from the farm areas to the industrial areas and will invite the transfer of workers from the class of those not gainfully employed in order to share in the unemployment benefits…Unemployment insurance, which in many instances places a premium on indolence, would unquestionably defeat this proposed plan of the administration to place workers in the areas of lower living costs and keep them gainfully employed.

Walter D. Allen, President of the National Editorial Association, Testimony, House Committee on Ways and Means.
03/21/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

…no matter who pays the unemployment insurance bill in the first instance, it comes out of money available for wages and so is all paid by the workers in the long run. But like other indirect taxes, those who bear the burden do not realize in under such a scheme as the Wagner-Lewis bill proposes. If they did, they would be careful how it was spent and would raise objections if slackers and chiselers attempted to love off it. If they thought it was being paid by employers and by the State, many would be tempted to join the slacker and chiseler class. Any bill which purports to lay the whole burden on management (although it cannot be done) is doubly vicious in tendency.

Editorial, Los Angeles Times.
04/03/1934 | 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.