Unemployment benefits could continue up to 73 weeks until this year, thanks to “emergency” federal grants, but only in states with unemployment rates above 9 percent. That gave the long-term unemployed a perverse incentive to stay in high-unemployment states rather than move to places with more opportunities.
Before leaving the White House recently, former Presidential adviser Gene Sperling had been pushing Congress to reenact “emergency” benefits for the long-term unemployed. That was risky political advice for congressional Democrats, ironically, because it would significantly increase the unemployment rate before the November elections. That may explain why congressional bills only restore extended benefits through May or June.
Sperling argued in January that, “Most of the people are desperately looking for jobs. You know, our economy still has three people looking for every job (opening).” PolitiFact declared that statement true. But it is not true.
The “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey” (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not begin to measure “every job (opening).” JOLTS asks 16,000 businesses how many new jobs they are actively advertising outside the firm. That is comparable to the Conference Board’s index of help wanted advertising, which found almost 5.2 million jobs advertised online in February.
With nearly 10.5 million unemployed, and 5.2 million jobs ads, one might conclude that our economy has two people looking for every job (opening)” rather than three. But that would also be false, because no estimate of advertised jobs can possibly gauge all available jobs.
Consider this: The latest JOLTS survey says “there were 4.0 million job openings in January,” but “there were 4.5 million hires in January.” If there were only 4.0 million job openings, how were 4.5 million hired? Because the estimated measure of “job openings” was ridiculously low. It always is.