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Do extended unemployment benefits lengthen unemployment spells? evidence from recent cycles in the U.S. labor market

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  • Henry S. Farber
  • Robert G. Valletta
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    Abstract

    In response to the Great Recession and sustained labor market downturn, the availability of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits was extended to new historical highs in the United States, up to 99 weeks as of late 2009 into 2012. We exploit variation in the timing and size of UI benefit extensions across states to estimate the overall impact of these extensions on unemployment duration, comparing the experience with the prior extension of benefits (up to 72 weeks) during the much milder downturn in the early 2000s. Using monthly matched individual data from the U.S. Current Population Survey (CPS) for the periods 2000-2005 and 2007-2012, we estimate the effects of UI extensions on unemployment transitions and duration. We rely on individual variation in benefit availability based on the duration of unemployment spells and the length of UI benefits available in the state and month, conditional on state economic conditions and individual characteristics. We find a small but statistically significant reduction in the unemployment exit rate and a small increase in the expected duration of unemployment arising from both sets of UI extensions. The effect on exits and duration is primarily due to a reduction in exits from the labor force rather than a decrease in exits to employment (the job finding rate). The magnitude of the overall effect on exits and duration is similar across the two episodes of benefit extensions. Although the overall effect of UI extensions on exits from unemployment is small, it implies a substantial effect of extended benefits on the steady-state share of unemployment in the cross-section that is long-term.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2013-09.

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    Date of creation: 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2013-09

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    Keywords: Unemployment ; Labor market - United States;

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    References

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    1. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(2), pages 173-234, 04.
    2. Card, David & Levine, Phillip B., 2000. "Extended benefits and the duration of UI spells: evidence from the New Jersey extended benefit program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 107-138, October.
    3. David R. Howell & Bert M. Azizoglu, 2011. "Unemployment benefits and work incentives: the US labour market in the Great Recession," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(2), pages 221-240.
    4. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle," Discussion Papers 1303, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).
    5. Rebecca M. Blank & David Card, 1989. "Recent Trends in Insured and Uninsured Unemployment: Is There an Explanation?," NBER Working Papers 2871, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Rothstein, Jesse, 2011. "Unemployment Insurance and Job Search in the Great Recession," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt5611t356, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    7. Abowd, John M & Zellner, Arnold, 1985. "Estimating Gross Labor-Force Flows," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(3), pages 254-83, June.
    8. Kory Kroft & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2011. "Should Unemployment Insurance Vary With the Unemployment Rate? Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 17173, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Poterba, James M & Summers, Lawrence H, 1995. "Unemployment Benefits and Labor Market Transitions: A Multinomial Logit Model with Errors in Classification," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 207-16, May.
    10. Moffitt, Robert, 1985. "Unemployment insurance and the distribution of unemployment spells," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 85-101, April.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Unemployment benefits extensions and unemployment spells
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-05-29 14:25:00
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    Cited by:
    1. Kelly, Elish & McGuinness, Seamus & O'Connell, Philip J. & Haugh, David & Pandiella, Alberto González, 2013. "Transitions In and Out of Unemployment Among Young People in the Irish Recession," Papers WP466, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    2. Kory Kroft & Fabian Lange & Matthew J. Notowidigdo & Lawrence F. Katz, 2014. "Long-Term Unemployment and the Great Recession: The Role of Composition, Duration Dependence, and Non-Participation," NBER Working Papers 20273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Julien Albertini & Arthur Poirier, 2014. "Unemployment benefits extensions at the zero lower bound on nominal interest rate," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2014-019, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    4. Johannes F. Schmieder & Till M. von Wachter & Stefan Bender, 2013. "The Causal Effect of Unemployment Duration on Wages: Evidence from Unemployment Insurance Extensions," NBER Working Papers 19772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Michelle L. Barnes & Fabià Gumbau-Brisa & Giovanni P. Olivei, 2013. "Cyclical versus secular: decomposing the recent decline in U.S. labor force participation," Public Policy Brief, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

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