Tag: Unemployment

And You Thought Health Insurance Was Bad


I spend most of my time thinking about health care, but a recent The New York Times article – How the American Unemployment System Failed – by Eduardo Porter, caught my attention.  I mean, when the U.S. healthcare system looks fair by comparison, you know things are bad.

Long story short: unemployment doesn’t help as many people as it should, for as much as it should, or for as long as it should. 

It does kind of remind you of healthcare, doesn’t it?

The pandemic, and the associated recession, has unemployment in the news more than since the “Great Recession” of 2008 and perhaps since the Great Depression.  Last spring the unemployment rate skyrocketed well past Great Recession levels, before slowly starting to subside.  Still, last week almost a million people filed for unemployment benefits, reminding us that unemployment is still an issue.

Keep in mind that unemployment rates do not tell the full story, as they don’t count those only “marginally attached” to the workforce – people who would like to work but have given up – and counts part-time workers who would like to work full time as “employed.”  The “true” unemployment rate is reckoned to be much worse than the official rate.

Congress has enacted several COVID relief measures, including in late December, to extend duration, amount, and applicability of unemployment benefits, but our unemployment systems remain predominantly state designed and administered.  The shortcomings of these systems have been severely exposed over the past few months: neither the processes nor the actual technologies supporting them proved robust enough for the volume of applicants.  Last December Pew Trusts reported that “unemployment payments were weeks late in nearly every state.” 

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Hiding Our Heads in the Sand


There are so many stories about the coronavirus pandemic — some inspiring, some tragic, and all-too-many frustrating.  In the world’s supposedly most advanced economy, we’ve struggled to produce enough ventilators, tests, even swabs, for heaven’s sake.  

I can’t stop thinking about infrastructure, especially unemployment systems.

We’d never purposely shut down our economy; no nation had.  Each state is trying to figure out the best course between limiting exposure to COVID-19 and keeping food on people’s tables.  Those workers deemed “essential” still show up for work, others may be able to work from home, but many have suddenly become unemployed.

The U.S. is seeing unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, and occuring in a matter of a couple months, not several years.  As of this writing, there are over 22 million unemployed; no one believes that is a complete count (not everyone qualifies for unemployment), and few believe that will be the peak.

Many unemployment systems could not manage the flood of applications.  

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