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 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

It would undermine the fabric of our economic and social life by destroying initiative, discouraging thrift, and stifling individual responsibility.

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

It will hasten mechanization of all processes and thus permanently reduce employment. It will force employers to keep wage rates at the lowest possible minimum and thus reduce the amount of the tax.

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

…we are going on the theory that it will create jobs. It will not. We shall create jobs only by giving confidence to people who are in a position to hire other people.

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

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.