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Unemployment Mistakes…


I read an interesting article in Time magazine by Nina Easton about the fifth extension of unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits can now run up to 99 weeks.


She believes the extra long extensions to unemployment benefits are detrimental to pulling the economy out of the gutter.

My first reaction was to disagree. This is a tough economy and finding a job is difficult but… now I’m beginning to wonder if she’s right.

When I was laid off in late 2008, I didn’t apply for unemployment. I was so sure I’d find a job quickly that I didn’t want to deal with the paperwork. I hand delivered 5-7 applications a day and before I knew it, 4 weeks had slipped by. I started to panic and a sense of desperation overwhelmed me. I bumped up my search, applied for any and every job including dog trainer and street sweeper, and found a job before 2009 started. I worked pushing shopping carts and boxing groceries until I found a permanent position.

When my husband was laid off in late 2009, he searched for jobs in his field and applied for an average of 3 jobs a week. We knew unemployment bought us about 6-9 months worth of time and were willing to wait for the right position. He was eventually re-hired for his old position a few months later.

No, I don’t think this is true of everyone but I do wonder if nearly two years of unemployment checks is only making the problem worse.


  • Reply DC @ Dollar Commentary |

    This post is right up my alley; I feel very strongly about how the government has instituted policies that encourage and promote a lack of ambition and personal responsibility. Now don’t get me wrong, if a person gets laid off and it’s not their fault, then I have all the sympathy in the world for them. But I’ve known too many people in the air capital of the world (Wichita, KS), that have been laid off from places like Boeing and Cessna that have sat on their butts and done NOTHING to look for another job, simply living off of the taxpayer’s money. When asked if they would look for a job any time soon, most of them respond with something like, “Heck no, are you crazy? They just extended unemployment for another 6 months!”

  • Reply Melanie |

    I definitely think there’s something to what you’re saying. There’s a girl in my office whose husband got laid off early in 09, and I think that his unemplyoment is running through at least next month. He hasn’t even really been looking for work that much and they’re eating out and living it up just like they always were. They’re treating it like a government free-pass to not work. Ridiculous.

  • Reply brooklynchick |

    Well, for those of us who make more than $400/week, unemployment just plugged a PART of the hole in our income, For me it just was a help, it definitely was not enough to live on so I could just not look for a job. But it helped!

  • Reply NYGIRL |

    I’m not sure that’s true in most cases. Here in NY the max for unemployment is $405 per week. There’s no way anyone can live here on that income alone. While there are certainly those who will take advantage of anything “Free”, I don’t think most people aspire to be “unemployed”.

  • Reply ARGH |

    This is actually a scarily uninformed remark. Do you know who Nina Easton is? Who her husband is? It is well proven that unemployment benefits help both individual families and the larger economy (destitute people don’t buy much). They are being extended now because the unemployment rate is 10% and it is HARD to find a job in a lot of areas.

    Plus, where is your humanity? Should the unemployed lose their homes and lives because they might find a job faster with the overwhelming stress of losing everything??

    I think it would be a great idea if you gave back all the money you received in 2008 and your husband received in 2009, so someone more deserving can have a bit of solace during their hard time.

  • Reply Lizzie |

    I think that is way to long. There are always jobs available….just not necessarily the ones people want for the work/pay.

    I do agree with nygirl, I doubt it is most peoples goal, so why the need for the length?

  • Reply gina |

    I know someone who’s been out of work and looking very hard to no avail; his unemployment benefits have run out and now he’s being put out on the street. Good fellow, has a degree, used to have a good job, etc. And but for the sake of friends, he’d be homeless now. I can see how some people wouldn’t need the benefits for the entire time but many people like my friend do – especially in this economy.

  • Reply Ema |

    Its so funny you wrote about this. I was listening to the Planet Money podcast last night about Denmark’s economy. Because its so much easier to fire employees (i.e no severance given), Denmark provides generous unemployment insurance, up to 4 YEARS. In order to prevent people from just sitting at home for 4 years, while you’re on unemployment you must apply to 10 jobs per week and prove it. Denmark currently has a 2% unemployment rate and significantly higher income taxes.

  • Reply emmi |

    The unemployment extensions are yet another bailout of the banks. Funneling fed money to mortgage payments, essentially, to stave off a few % of foreclosures.

  • Reply Sara |

    I absolutely think it’s necessary, depending on where you live and how old you are. My stepdad worked for the same company in the midwest for over 20 and was laid off off and on throughout the years depending on work load and the union. He lives in the midwest, where the economy was hit very hard by the automotive industry crash. His company is considering shutting down completely, and his unemployment is running out. The midwest is not exactly thriving with employment opportunities nowadays, so really he doesn’t have may options. It isn’t like he hasn’t tried to find another job. I agree that there are people that probably take advantage of the situation, but there are others that need it and depend on it.

  • Reply Honey |

    It’s not “free money” – those of us with jobs are subsidizing those that don’t have them. We ALL pay that money back, not just the people who collect the unemployment. It almost seems they should track who’s receiving it and garnish their wages once they have a full-time job again.

  • Reply Leah |

    When I was laid off last March, the first thing I did was file for unemployment. My boyfriend (now fiance) owns his own company, so we depended on my steady income to pay rent and utilities, not to mention my student loan payments (I’d just graduated the May prior). My rationale was that I wasn’t sure how long I’d be out of a job, so we would likely need the help along the way. I worked with a photographer as her assistant, and in the mean time I applied for 5+ jobs per day.

    Long story short, I was re-hired by the same company 6 weeks later, which incidentally was the first time I received an unemployment check. It wouldn’t have been enough to sustain us in the long run, but like another commenter said, it helped.

    99 weeks of unemployment assistance, though? That seems a little extreme. I know in MA you have to record any income you bring in during the week to deduct from your UA benefit, plus you had to keep a log of your job-searching activities. Do those same restrictions apply in other states?

  • Reply J |

    ” Because its so much easier to fire employees (i.e no severance given) [in denmark], ”

    Many states in the US are “at will” states, meaning there are no protections for employees and there is no guarantee of severence, etc …

  • Reply Kari |

    As a person who received unemployment for 11 months last year, I can say it definitely did help. In my case, my husband kept his job and we lived on that income, saving the unemployment income as extra if any emergencies came up. And despite what the article seemed to imply, I did actively look for jobs. In fact, I applied to over 200 jobs and got one interview. ONE. And it didn’t pan out. And I have a college degree and almost 10 years experience in marketing. I have finally given up on working for someone else and started my own business…can’t get laid off now!

    I have to step up on the soapbox now. The first two sentences in the Time article stood out to me: “Have a heart. It’s what Democrats like to think they do best.” Wait…is this an article about unemployment, or politics? Right there, this author lost a lot of credibility in my eyes. PEOPLE ARE HURTING. REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS, INDEPENDENTS. What happened to non-partisan, balanced reporting? Over and over I see the media taking issues that affect everyone in this country and politicizing them at every opportunity. I had to dig between the off-topic personal politcal statements and the smug comments/overall tone to find any useful content in this article. Stepping off the soapbox now.

    I don’t condone the government throwing money blindly at a problem with no oversight (although that likely goes on every day). Perhaps one option would be for the government to review the guidelines for unemployment. But just taking it away would not only be kicking people when they’re aleady down, but political suicide.

    To the poster Honey:
    Your comment “It almost seems they should track who’s receiving it and garnish their wages once they have a full-time job again.”
    Unemployment is already taken out once people start working again. So you’re suggesting double taxing them?

  • Reply Edwin |

    While I see where people are coming from int heir hatred of unemployment, I find it unfounded. I also know quite a few (one was a good friend) people who went on unemployment and didn’t even put in the time to try and find a job, and this is in Utah where the unemployment rate is not near as harsh as elsewhere.

    These people are everywhere and can be expected to exploit the system, particularly with nothing in place keeping them honest like the Denmark example. On the other hand,

    I know just as many people who were legitimately helped by unemployment and a few were even able to get a similar if not better position after their job search rather than being forced to find a job they are overqualified for. This not only is better for the economy as they will be more productive but its better for their sanity. Once again let me state that this is in Utah where the unemployment rate is sitting at 6.7%, not near as bad as the national rate.

    No matter how angry they make me, I would much rather deal with the leeches on the system and give the honest people a fighting chance than drop the system outright.

  • Reply Honey |

    @ Kari – I am saying that, like most insurance, the government is betting that more people will pay in than will ever reap unemployment benefits. Since that’s not happening currently, the government needs to come up with SOME sort of plan to recoup the billions of dollars they are paying out. It’s like any other budget, if you’re spending more then you have to make more someplace. Personally I think our income tax is WAAAY too low in the U.S., if it was higher it would be a lot easier to provide services like this and still have our government remain solvent.

  • Reply Kari |

    @ Honey- I agree with you that you that shelling out more money than you take in is unwise (and unsustainable). But unfortunately, the government does not think that way…if they were a private company, they probably would have been out of business and bankrupt a long time ago.

    There’s no easy answers. Record unemployment and stimulus checks most people saved instead of spending. I do think that spending money directly creating jobs is a better idea than just giving people money, which is more passive. It brings to mind the whole ‘give a man a fish/teach a man to fish’ story.

    Perhaps those ‘too big to fail’ banks that we the taxpayers now own (and most of whom made record profits in ’09) could provide some revenue! Goldman Sachs alone made 12 billion in 2009.

    BTW, great discussion on this topic. If my last post sounded a bit defensive when I asked the question about double taxing, it was not meant that way.

  • Reply Jonah Gibson |

    I lost my job in September of 2008. Since then I have lost my home, my car, and been forced to file personal bankruptcy. This in spite of receiving unemployment benefits since January of 2009. I depend on the largesse of friends and family. Left to fend with only unemployment checks I would be living in a cardboard box under a bridge. Anyone complaining that unemployment benefits encourage slacking is just completely clueless about the realities of the current economy. It is never going to come back the way it was. Many of the jobs lost are lost forever, and the workers who’ve been displaced are going to have to reinvent themselves to ever be productive again.

  • Reply Beks |

    Obviously this is a sensitive issue – and I’m not saying we should rid ourselves of unemployment. I’m simply concerned that we are running it for two years.

    To ARGH – You must have not read my post in its entirety. I did not receive unemployment in 2008. I got a job pushing shopping carts until I found a good job. I have never been on unemployment even though I have been unemployed.

  • Reply Abigail |

    Well, first off, I would like to point out that there are employees who DON’T pay for unemployment benefits. In Washington, for example, it is paid entirely by employers. So, unless you see a specific deduction for it, you’re not paying for anyone.

    I guess I have a very mixed take on this issue. And it’s because I suppose my husband is technically one of the people gaming the system. (Hear me out before you decry, please.)

    My husband was let go from his job because his eczema was so severe it made him miss way too much work. At first, it was just the days when he couldn’t stand to put on clothes. (Told you it was severe.) But then he started going rounds with MRSA because his skin is always open somewhere. He seriously had over 20 different MRSA site infections (aka boils) in a year’s time. Since MRSA is incredibly contagious, he’d have to miss 2-3 days’ work at a time, until the antibiotics kicked back in.

    His employer was a very kind-hearted guy, so he said he would support an unemployment claim. It was our hope that Tim could get de-stressed enough with a little respite from employment to stop breaking out constantly. (He’d get just better enough to put on clothes and be right back and work, which would stress him out and he’d have to stay home for a day or two.)

    Unfortunately, Tim was stressed about being unemployed and on government money. We spent most of our time in doctor’s visits of some sort. He tried light therapy to no avail. He tried steroids, but you aren’t allowed to be on them for too long. And as soon as he would start to taper off, the flare-ups returned as bad as before.

    We got a disability case started. But those (if you’re lucky) take 18 months. So we had a choice: We could continue to get unemployment from the state for $341 a week, or we could admit to the state that he was disabled and get $300 a month.

    Meanwhile, I have health problems of my own that mean I can work only part-time. So my income is $1,600 a month. Our 1-bedroom apartment alone was $700, and rents elsewhere were significantly more.

    So we took the less ethical route and got more money from the state. We didn’t like it. We know it’s not “right.” But we were doing what we had to to survive.

    Finally, we realized that he was never going to get better in Washington. So we went $3,000 more in debt (which was why we had avoided this option before) and moved to Arizona. We had to leave our entire support network behind, which isn’t great for two people with health issues. It was only through my mother’s generosity that we even have a car, which is pretty much necessary in Phoenix.

    It took a month or so for Tim’s skin to settle down, thanks to the stress of the move and extra debt. But he’s looking for part-time work. (I want him to ease back into employment so he doesn’t start a break-out cycle again.) He’ll work up to full-time.

    Judge us if you must. I suppose to someone outside the situation it might seem wrong. But we were drowning in debt from various health-related expenses. So we used the resources offered to us, even if it wasn’t really the moral thing to do.

    That said, I do think that able-bodied people should take jobs that they can get. I could understand waiting a month or two, to see if you can get a job more in line with your field of work.

    I also wish we didn’t leave in a system where, when you earn minimum wage, it’s the same money as unemployment offers. In fact, if you worked for $8 an hour — a little over minimum wage in Washington — you’d earn less than you would on unemployment. $320 before taxes, as opposed to $341.

  • Reply Nicole |

    I would say that 2 years of unemployment benefits is a bit much! I think the unemployment system is about as broken as the welfare system. Not enough checks and balances in either area IMHO….

  • Reply Monroe on a Budget |

    If someone is “living it up” on unemployment the way they did when they had a job, there are only two ways to do that:

    1. They had emergency savings or a severance package that is providing cash.

    2. They are living off their credit cards.

  • Reply Jonah Gibson |

    I’ve applied for and even interviewed for positions that pay substantially less than what I made when I was working. By ‘substantially less’ I mean between one half to one quarter of what I used to make. I don’t get offered these positions, in spite of the huge value I represent to the hiring companies in terms of knowledge and experience for the buck spent, for the simple reason that they are afraid I will leave them as soon as I’m offered more money. So I languish on the sidelines, unproductive and unfulfilled while less but more appropriately qualified candidates get the jobs.

  • Reply Jonah Gibson |

    I’ve applied for and even interviewed for positions that pay substantially less than what I made when I was working. By ‘substantially less’ I mean between one half to one quarter of what I used to make. I don’t get offered these positions, in spite of the huge value I represent to the hiring companies in terms of knowledge and experience for the buck spent, for the simple reason that they are afraid I will leave them as soon as I’m offered more money. So I languish on the sidelines, unproductive and unfulfilled, while less but more appropriately qualified candidates get the jobs.

  • Reply Jen |

    I think it does make it worse for some because face it, a lot of us will wait to find work if we know a check is coming in. I quit my job a while ago to stay home with kids, but for about six months before that, I was hoping to get laid off. It would have gotten me three months of severance, cheap COBRA, and unemployment for years! I wouldn’t have been actively looking for a job during that time either, just using the money to stay home with my kids. I am a really good worker though, darn it, so my company’s layoffs never affected me. People can think I am a deadbeat for wanting a layoff, but I am just being honest. I think probably a large number of people on unemployment are like me. Once your unemployment disappears you will do what you have to do, move in with family, take a crummy job, etc.

  • Reply Monika |

    I live in the Chicago area. I’ve been home from Chevrolet just a year. If I didn’t have the unemployment I don’t know what I’d do. I network full time. I volunteer at our local food pantry full time as a food rescuer. What that means is trying to find company’s to donate food to us. We are currently assisting over 800 families a month. Our needs are at the greatest. As well as, our donations are at an all time low. All I get as an answer when I network that good things will come my way. When will there be jobs available? I have a friend with three kids working for Dunkin Donuts for minimum wage. He works two jobs sixteen hours a day; he still can’t make his bills. We need our unemployment extensions. There are no jobs.

  • Reply Hams |

    I see what you are saying and I think it’s similar to welfare- Some people will always take advantage of the benefits, but I don’t think that those people outnumber the hard-working people who really need a hand. I’m in Florida and unemployment is only 270 a week (net). It’s not enough to live on at all so there is a lot of incentive to finding a job. Florida also has roughly an 11% unemployment rate, so I do think it’s necessary right now. We can’t punish those who need it and are not “abusing” the system. That would be like no one can ride airplanes b/c of a few terrorrists. It’s touph out there, hang in there, everyone!

  • Reply Miss Displaced |

    I get angry when I read the brainwashed comments of some people.
    It’s been almost two years of being unemployed for me. I applied EVERYWHERE, but most of the those places (dog walker, grocery stores, etc.) simply WILL NOT HIRE someone with a college degree who used to make $60k/year. They have told me to my face that I am “overqualified” and will only leave when things get better. Well, duh! No, gee, I aspire to remain a dog walker the rest of my life! No, but maybe I’ll do it for now.

  • Reply SoSueMe |

    My boyfriend was laid off from his truck driving job 2 years ago. He became really picky as to what he wanted to take, not wanting to be over the road for weeks and weeks due to not being able to see his daughter on his weekend visitations. I understood that. But, he ended up getting unemployment for 2 full years and he got really comfortable being off work all the time. He was TOO picky about what he wanted because he had unemployment, not to mention ME being employed full-time in health care and paying almost all our monthly bills! I really think it depends on the person. Some people look at unemployment in the short-term and work hard to get another job. Others, like my boyfriend, get compfortable and figure why not lay back, wait for that “perfect” job and let months and months pass. Some people are on welfare for the short term and use it the way it should be used, for a hand-up until they’re on their feet. Others have been on welfare for years and years and see no reason to work. It totally depends on the attitude of the individual. I do think you should make people PROVE they have applied for different jobs before they can keep getting checks for months on end.

So, what do you think ?