Editorial: Restore help for unemployed

United States senators who voted for an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed, defined as being out of work for 27 weeks or more, realize that it constitutes a hand up, rather than a push down.

The hand here is one of compassion and understanding for those many Americans who aren’t happy with their lot, and who want to find a job that will allow them to take care of themselves and their family.

Unfortunately, there are those who think that cutting off these long-term benefits would be some sort of push to “get out there and find a job.” Those who see it this way say that benefits are actually a disincentive for people to find employment.

Instead, that strategy is more likely to move people into poverty.

The truth is, while the nation has seen a reduction in the number of Americans unemployed, there remain far too many people — roughly 11 million — out of work, with some 1.3 million Americans wearing the long-term unemployed tag. But that’s not because of a desire on their part to stay unemployed. Rather, the available jobs, estimated to number about 3.9 million, aren’t there.

Gene Sperling, assistant to the president for economic policy, explained it succinctly earlier this week on CNN’s “State of the Union”:

“Our economy still has three people looking for every (available) job.”

Is the nation’s economic health improving? Economists and others say “yes,” though the recovery from the Great Recession has not been as quick nor as strong as anyone would like. Projections call for the U.S. economy to generate 2.6 million jobs in 2014 year, up from 2.2 million last year. That’s considered good news ... but in looking back to the year that just ended, the nation had regained about 85 percent of the 9 million jobs lost during the recession.

Too many of those jobs seem to be part time.

The best answer to all of this is continued improvement to the economy, with robust job creation. Meanwhile lawmakers should follow the model of the past where Congress didn’t cut off benefits until the long-term unemployment rate dropped to 1.3 percent. That rate today? It’s 2.6 percent.

The House should follow the Senate’s lead and extend the benefits.

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