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 imposition on industry at this time of the tax burden contemplated by this measure would render business recovery absolutely hopeless.

James L. Donnelly, executive vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association in Associated Press, Washington Post.
03/31/1934 | 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

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.

George C. Lucas of the Publishers Association in Associated Press, Washington Post.
03/31/1934 | Full Details | Law(s): Unemployment Insurance

…in regard to the ultimate consequence of this legislation, that is leaving aside the effect that might be produced this year or next year, on pay rolls, we wish to point out the added incentive it creates for the more rapid introduction of labor-saving machinery for the definite purpose of reducing the total taxable pay roll and thus add to the unemployment....Further there is always a maximum labor cost that any industry can meet and there will be a definite increased tendency for employers to consider this tax as a part of the wages of their employees and keep the direct wage paid as low as possible to reduce such wage by the size of the tax itself; I am indicating that only as a natural business tendency.

George C. Lucas, Executive Secretary, National Publishers Association, 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.