Last week, after years of partisan fighting, Congress approved a two-year budget deal. Not included in the measure were any plans to extend the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, which provides additional unemployment benefits for Americans who have exhausted their state-funded assistance. Should the program not be renewed, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that 1.3 million unemployed workers will lose access to aid before the New Year.
If the program is not restored, by the end of 2014 4.9 million Americans will not receive EUC benefits they would have otherwise qualified for. If this happens, a number of states will have more than 100,000 residents who will lose access to federal aid. In California, more than 800,000 people could lose these benefits. Based on CBPP figures, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the most workers who stand to lose access to federal jobless benefits.
One of the most important factors influencing how many people could lose benefits within a state is the size of its population. In California, the nation’s most populous state with 38 million residents, more than 836,000 workers are expected to lose access to EUC benefits next year. Eight of the 10 most populous states are among the 10 states with the most people losing benefits due to the expiration of the EUC program.
Because of the weak job market across the U.S., “workers are simply exhausting their benefits before finding a job,” Claire McKenna, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, noted in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. According to the most recent 12 month figures from the Employment and Training Administration, 45% of the unemployed had lost their state-provided unemployment insurance benefits. In Florida, where more than a quarter of a million people stand to lose access to EUC benefits in 2014, 73% of unemployed workers had already exhausted their eligibility for state-sponsored programs.
The portion of workers unemployed for long stretches — for 15 weeks or more — is especially high in many of the states expected to be hardest-hit by the loss of federal unemployment benefits. As of the third quarter of 2013, eight of the states with the most workers expected to be most impacted by the cuts were among the top third of states for unemployment of 15 weeks or more.
While more than a million Americans wait to hear if they will lose unemployment benefits come December 28, many of the nation’s unemployed have already lost the aid they depend on. Workers throughout the U.S. have had to contend with decreases in the benefits provided by federal programs. According to McKenna, the passage of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act last year, “led both to a phase out of the Extended Benefits program, and then it led to a phase down of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.”
These changes reduced the number of weeks workers could receive unemployment coverage. In all, according to NELP, between 2010 and the twelve months ending in September 2013, the average monthly number of unemployed workers not receiving benefits rose by almost 1.8 million.
In addition to cuts to federal programs, changes to state policies have also played a role in increasing the number of unemployed, uncovered workers. McKenna added that seven states have cut the length of their programs “from the decades-long standard of 26 weeks.” In six states, the average monthly number of uncovered, unemployed workers rose by more than 100,000 between 2010 and 2013.
Based on figures obtained from the CBPP, 24/7 Wall St. examined the 10 states with the most residents slated to lose access to EUC benefits in 2014. These figures include those who will lose benefits at the start of the year, as well as those who would have qualified had the program been continued in 2014. We also utilized data from the CBPP on the number of weeks unemployment benefits for workers are available in each state. Figures from NELP on state and federal benefit losses, based on averages from the 2010 calendar year and the 12 months ending in September 2013, were also used. In the article, the 12 months ending in September is referred to as simply “2013.” Additionally, we reviewed figures for state unemployment insurance programs from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, as well as long-term unemployment and underemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These figures represent 12 months of data through the third quarter of 2013. BLS figures on unemployment and non-farm payrolls are for November and represent the most recent figures available.
These are the states about to lose the most unemployment insurance.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 141,000
> Population: 6.6 million (14th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.1% (20th highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 3.8% (22nd highest)
An estimated 141,000 Massachusetts workers will lose access to EUC benefits if the federal program is not renewed for 2014. Already, a large number of the state’s unemployed have lost benefits. In 2010, 88% of jobless workers received unemployment benefits, trailing only two other states. However, in 2013 only 56% received such benefits. Although the number of non-farm jobs grew by 1.7% between November 2012 and November 2013, the unemployment rate rose this year. One possible explanation, suggested by Governor Deval Patrick, is that more people in the state are now looking for work.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 164,700
> Population: 9.9 million (8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.7% (11th highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 5.0% (7th highest)
As of July, Georgia residents can only receive a maximum of 18 weeks of state-funded unemployment insurance, less than any other state. The state decided to cut the aid from 26 weeks in 2012 in part because it had borrowed heavily to cover unemployment insurance claims during the recession. And while federal programs may have helped residents to receive benefits for longer than 18 weeks, the percentage of unemployed Georgians with benefits dropped by nearly half, from 83% in 2010 to 42% in 2013. Georgia’s unemployment and underemployment rates were among the worst in the nation, while nearly 49% of jobless workers had exhausted their state-provided unemployment insurance benefits.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 189,700
> Population: 9.9 million (9th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.8% (3rd highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 4.8% (9th highest)
The average number of unemployed people per month in Michigan not receiving state or federal benefits rose by 62,000 between 2010 and 2013. While the number of unemployed workers in the state dropped by 31% in that time, more than in all but two other states, the number of benefit recipients dropped by 60%. Michigan’s unemployment rate remains high — at 8.8%, it was one of the nation’s highest rates in November. While in most states, workers are eligible for 26 weeks of state-sponsored unemployment insurance, in Michigan eligibility lasts just 20 weeks. Going forward, tens of thousands of unemployed workers will immediately lose benefits if the EUC program shuts down, and 190,000 people are projected to lose access next year.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 230,500
> Population: 12.9 million (5th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.7% (4th highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 5.2% (tied-4th highest)
Two-thirds of unemployed workers in Illinois, or an average of just over 460,000 people per month, received either state or federal unemployment insurance benefits in 2010. But in 2013, that figure dropped to just under 242,000. The state’s unemployment rate remains high as well, at 8.7% as of November. As a result, while the number of unemployed workers has fallen by 13% between 2010 and 2013, the average number of benefit recipients per month was nearly cut in half. Because of its high unemployment rate, Illinois is still one of three states where workers can qualify for 47 weeks of EUC benefits, a number that will fall to zero if the program is not renewed, affecting over 230,000 people in 2014.
6. New Jersey
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 260,100
> Population: 8.9 million (11th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.8% (9th highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 5.5% (2nd highest)
In 2010, almost all unemployed workers in New Jersey received unemployment benefits. But in 2013, that figure dropped to just 62%. Although benefits under the state’s unemployment insurance program are relatively high, paying an average of nearly $396 per week, more than 46% of unemployed residents have exhausted state benefits. Many of these workers are dependent on benefits from the federal EUC program instead. Cuts to this program are projected to hurt residents deeply in a state where the monthly average number of unemployed people receiving benefits has already declined by 146,000, and where 5.5% of the workforce has been unemployed 15 weeks or longer, more than in all but one other state.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 260,400
> Population: 19.3 million (4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.4% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 4.5% (12th highest)
Florida reformed its unemployment insurance program last year. But with changes such as a 45-question exam, several bodies complained, arguing such changes are obstacles designed to make it more difficult to get assistance. State residents receive just 19 weeks of state-provided unemployment insurance, tied for second fewest nationwide. At this time, 20 weeks of EUC benefits are available to Floridians, less than most other states in the nation. However, that figure will fall to zero should the program not be extended, leaving workers who have exhausted state benefits without any aid. As of the third quarter of 2013, 73% of Florida’s unemployed had exhausted these benefits, by far the most of any state.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 262,500
> Population: 12.8 million (6th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (17th highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 4.3% (14th highest)
Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. where more than 200,000 workers lost unemployment benefits between 2010 and 2013. In 2010, virtually all jobless residents in the state received unemployment benefits. While over the last 12 months, that figure had fallen to 58%, it is still among the highest in the nation. In 2013, there were nearly 1.3 million initial claims for unemployment insurance, less than in any state except for California and New York. The number of unemployed workers getting benefits will likely drop even further if federal emergency benefits are not renewed. More than 262,000 Pennsylvanians are expected to lose access to EUC benefits at some point in 2014 if the program is discontinued.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 285,200
> Population: 26.1 million (2nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (15th lowest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 2.9% (16th lowest)
In part because of its sheer size, Texas is slated to have more workers lose federal unemployment benefits in 2014 than any state except for California and New York. However, even in Texas, where the unemployment rate is a relatively low 6.2% and alternative measures such as underemployment are also similarly low, many out-of-work residents have lost benefits. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of unemployed Texans fell by 19%, yet the number of unemployment benefit recipients fell by almost half. Going forward, the elimination of the EUC program would cut the total number of benefit weeks potentially available to the unemployed from 54 to just 26, affecting an estimated 285,200 people in 2014.
2. New York
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 383,000
> Population: 19.6 million (3rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.4% (14th highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 4.7% (10th highest)
New York’s job market has been weak in recent years. The number of unemployed workers declined by just 8% between 2010 and 2013, versus a more than 20% decline nationally. In all, New Yorkers are eligible for a total of 63 weeks of unemployment benefits from the state and federal government. That number will fall to just 26 weeks if the EUC program is not renewed, affecting an estimated 383,000 workers in 2014. New York has already announced comprehensive changes to its own program, including planned increases in minimum and maximum payments for the first time since 1999. According to the most recent 12 month data from the Department of Labor, the average weekly benefit in New York was just 25.5% of the average weekly wage — lower than in all but three states.
> Unemployed losing access to benefits: 836,100
> Population: 38.0 million (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.5% (5th highest)
> Pct. unemployed 15+ weeks: 5.2% (tied-4th highest)
California, by far the nation’s largest state by population, had an average of more than 1.7 million unemployed workers per month in 2013. As of the third quarter of this year, more than half of the state’s jobless workers had already exhausted their state benefits. With 5.2% of the workforce out of a job for at least 15 weeks, one of the highest in the country, many people in the Golden State likely rely on the 37 available weeks of EUC benefits. However, with the program slated to end, an estimated 836,100 unemployed workers will lose access to EUC benefits in 2014, more than double the number in any other state. California has already informed more than 200,000 long-term out-of-work residents that their benefits will expire by the end of the year.