|Posted by Ted Canova on March 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM|
By Ted Canova
A year ago, I barely paid attention to weekly jobless claims. The storyline went like this: someone loses their job, they file for unemployment, and then they find a new job. But today, with unemployment lasting years for many people, filing for unemployment starts a long and painful road.
The Labor Department reports 397,000 Americans filed for unemployment for the first time last week. But there is one group of Americans who no longer qualify. This group has been out of work for so long they don't even count. They're not part of the weekly jobless report. They're not part of America's consciousness. They have become invisible, like an eyesore in society we don't discuss.
But we should talk about "99ers" because their numbers are swelling, their hopes are fading and their plight will determine the length of this recession.
"99ers" reflect the maximum number of weeks that the most generous states provide in total state and federal unemployment insurance. Right now, more than 1.7 million Americans are "99ers" who have exhausted their benefits. This year, an additional 4 million men and women will graduate into their ranks.
Michael Thornton is an advocate for "99ers." He also keeps track of stalled federal legislation designed to help the group. "Unfortunately, a deaf and dumb (in more ways than one) Congress seems also blind to the fact that millions of jobless will not have any financial safety net."
Once considered a safety net for laid off Americans, the weekly unemployment check averages $309 which is harder to stretch through each desperate week. Helping "99ers" would likely spur consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of America's economy. With "99ers" spending money at local businesses, helping them could help all of us surge out of the recession faster.
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