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Your Take: Does Unemployment Insurance Reward Laziness?

Posted By Jim On 03/05/2010 @ 7:24 am In Your Take | 190 Comments

The Huffington Post shared [3] the thoughts of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on unemployment this week:

Unemployment insurance “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,”

The title of the article is a little misleading. In quotes, Kyl said that benefits dissuade people from job hunting, not that they “make people not want to get a job,” as the title states. While I didn’t hear or read about the debate, it seems like a stretch to take the quotes and twist them to match the title.

However, unemployment benefits do act as a disincentive. You get unemployment benefits when you are unemployed, you don’t get them when you are employed. If you remain unemployed, you get paid for not working… so in that respect Kyl is right. Given that base unemployment benefits lasts 26 weeks (not including the extensions from the stimulus package), I’m inclined to think that it’s not unfair for Bunning, or others, to ask how we are going to pay for these things especially if we’re extending benefits again.

While the initial 26 weeks are funded by my employer and myself, through past payments, the extensions, in theory, aren’t. They’re funded by current workers and are taken from their future benefits, should they ever need them. I’m not well versed in how it all works but that’s just my layman’s understanding of it.

If I lost my job and was on unemployment, my initial sense of urgency at finding another job would be much lower than if I didn’t have unemployment benefits (once I got over the sting of being fired). If I just need to meet the job hunting requirements to receive unemployment benefits, I’ll do that while I search for the “right” job and not the “right now” job. I would rethink my career, a la Lemonade [4], and not rush to find income. Without unemployment benefits, I would be less likely to do it… so in a sense the benefits act as a disincentive.

What are your thoughts on unemployment benefits and whether they reward laziness? Did you think Bunning blocking the bill because he wanted the Senate to follow its own PAYGO rules were justified?

(Photo: notionscapital [5])


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