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

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

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

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

…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.