Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Floridians rally in support of unemployment benefits

Demonstrators rally in support of unemployment benefits on July 16, 2020 in Miami Springs, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images)

Jobs Report Confirms Ending Unemployment Aid for 8 Million People Was a 'Complete Disaster'

The latest federal data, said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, should put "an end to the false myth that unemployment insurance benefits keep people from working."

Kenny Stancil

Republican lawmakers argued, and many of their Democratic counterparts accepted, that slashing federal jobless aid would lead to robust growth in employment. However, data released Friday shows that while eight million people were booted from expanded unemployment insurance programs last month, employers added just 194,000 jobs—the weakest monthly increase this year.

"194,000 jobs is equal to less than 3% of the people who were removed from the UI rolls in September."

"I hope this puts an end to the false myth that UI benefits keep people from working," said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). "They don't."

"We can't build back better by adopting GOP talking points and putting them into policy," she added. "This was the wrong call a month ago and it's the wrong call today."

According to the right-wing theory, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits introduced in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis were keeping people from taking jobs, so removing a key source of income from millions of people would force them to return to the labor market in droves.

This "starve people back to work" strategy, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called the UI cuts, "did not work to say the least," said policy analyst Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project, a left-wing think tank.

The September jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Bruenig noted in a Friday blog post, showed "the worst month of job growth since [Joe] Biden became president and the second-worst since May of last year when the pandemic labor market recovery began."

Number of people who lost pandemic UI benefits compared to job growth in September 2021

Citing the BLS data, Bruenig wrote that "194,000 jobs is equal to less than 3% of the people who were removed from the UI rolls in September. At this rate, it would take 3.5 years for jobs added to equal the number of people who lost their pandemic UI benefits."

"The management of UI in the last six months," he stressed, "has been a complete disaster."

Last month's nationwide assault on unemployed workers was preceded by state-level attacks on jobless benefits. Over the summer, 26 states—all but Louisiana led by Republican governors—prematurely ended federally expanded UI programs in a coercive bid to boost employment.

In a sign of things to come, the right-wing plan failed then as well. August job growth, Bruenig pointed out in an earlier blog post, was more than twice as fast in states that retained unemployment benefits.

Despite mounting evidence against cuts, the Democratic-controlled federal government refused to intervene to preserve pandemic-era UI before it expired on September 6, although Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) recently unveiled a bill to extend the benefits until next February.

Echoing Bruenig and Tlaib, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) on Friday said that "back in June I led my colleagues sounding the alarm on Republican governors terminating unemployment aid early. We feared their cruelty would hurt job growth and sadly our fears were right."

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on Friday attributed September's weak job growth to the impact of the ultra-contagious Delta variant and encouraged widespread vaccination to support economic recovery amid the ongoing pandemic.

Experts at the progressive think tank also urged policymakers to pursue changes that would permanently increase the bargaining power of workers.

"This is yet another sign that the strong wage growth we have seen in some industries this year is not a permanent shift in worker bargaining power, but a temporary result of the (very) unique circumstances of this recovery," tweeted EPI president Heidi Shierholz. "For sustained strong job growth for working people, we need things like the PRO Act, minimum wage increases, etc."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'We Will Fight! We Will Win!': Nearly 200 Abortion Rights Defenders Arrested in DC

"If people don't see the rage," said one woman at the protest, "nothing changes."

Jon Queally ·


Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo