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

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

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

The proposed pay-roll tax is not only a sales tax, but, in addition, is a production tax, a processing tax, and a distribution tax. It has all the vices and none of the virtues of a sales tax. It is selective as to the classes of business against which it is to be assessed, and hence, is discriminatory. It is cumulative; it applies over and over again on every operation from the production of raw materials to and including the final sale of a product to the ultimate consumer…The pay-roll tax is a hidden tax and each successive purchaser of a commodity pays the tax if it can be passed on under the circumstances of the particular transaction.

John C. Gall, Associate Counsel National Association of Manufacturers, 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.