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Monday, April 11, 2011

What Percentage of the Unemployed Get Benefits?

(Note:  Updates for May 2012 in progress at end of article.)

The percentage of the "official" unadjusted unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011:  62.37%.  (8,770,443 out of 14,060,000).



The percentage of the "unofficial" unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011 is much lower:  30.19%.  (8,770,443 out of 29,047,000).


The number of people receiving benefits in March is taken from the Department of Labor's Unemployment Weekly Claims Report which includes the week of March 12.  This is a non-seasonally adjusted figure.  I use the March 12th figure as this is the week on which the monthly unemployment figures are based.  


The "official" unemployment number is the non-seasonally adjusted number for the month of March 2011, also from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) monthly situation report.   I explain my alternate unemployment figure of 29 million here, in another blog entry. 


A few comments on these numbers:


1.  Many people think that the unemployment rate only includes those who are getting benefits.  These figures should make it very clear that this isn't so.  Over one-third of the "official" unemployed (those who have looked for work in the past 4 weeks) are not getting benefits.  There is no connection between benefits and who is counted as unemployed.  (Explained here:  How the Unemployment Rate Is Calculated.) 


2.  It is highly unlikely that any new or re-entering workers are getting benefits.  In March 2011, there were 4,362,000 unemployed in these two categories (unadjusted).  Also, 657,000 said that they had quit their jobs vs. being laid off.   Most quitters do not qualify for unemployment benefits.  Therefore, the total of those entering, re-entering, or who quit their last jobs (but have looked for work in the past 4 weeks) is 5,019,000.


3.  That leaves 9,041,000 "officially" unemployed who have been laid off, most of whom probably qualify for benefits.  As only  8,770,443 people were getting benefits in mid-March, there are still at least 300,000 unemployed people who aren't getting benefits.  This is complicated by the fact that there are 8,737,000 part-time workers, some of whom are eligible for unemployment benefits depending on the state in which they live and how many hours they are working.


In summary:  There are hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people out there, who are unemployed because they were terminated, who are actively looking for work or who "want work", and who are not receiving any benefits.  The lowest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), actively looking for work, and not receiving benefits is 300,000.  The highest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), who "want work" and may or may not be actively looking for work, and who are not receiving benefits is somewhere around 6,521,000.    (That's 15,291,000 terminated minus  8,770,443 receiving benefits.).


As we watch the numbers of people receiving benefits go down every week, there is no obvious way of telling how many of these people are excluded from the numbers of those who are no longer receiving benefits because they have found employment and how many have exhausted all benefits (the much-maligned 99ers).  The number is somewhere between 300,000 and 6,521,000.  And, of those who have found employment, we know that 8,737,000 are working part-time because they can't get full-time work.  Those are still huge numbers!

Updates for May 2012 (in progress):
The percentage of the "official" unadjusted unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011:  62.37%.  (8,770,443 out of 14,060,000).
The percentage of the "unofficial" unemployed for March 2011 who were getting benefits as of the week of March 12, 2011 is much lower:  30.19%.  (8,770,443 out of 29,047,000).
The lowest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), actively looking for work, and not receiving benefits is 300,000.  The highest number of people unemployed (because they were terminated), who "want work" and may or may not be actively looking for work, and who are not receiving benefits is somewhere around 6,521,000.    (That's 15,291,000 terminated minus  8,770,443 receiving benefits.).

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