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

New York State’s past independent pioneering activities in social legislation, while commendable in many respects…have already produced discriminatory differentials between the cost of doing business in New York and such costs in neighboring States [sic]. We can see no justification for deliberately increasing those differentials at this time by continuance of such pioneering.

Statement by the Merchants Association of New York, “Merchants Oppose Job Insurance Bills”, New York Times.
04/17/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

It would result in further and unnecessary intrusion of the Government into the domain of private enterprise, thus aggravating the hardships which have already been caused industry by extensive government regulations, restrictions, and competition.

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 fundamental objection to the whole plan is that it is based on the false assumption, not merely that the world owes every man a living, but that employees in industry owe a living to every person who chances to be employed in that or any other industry.

Editorial, Los Angeles Times.
04/03/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

[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

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.