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Unemployment Insurance and Job Search in the Great Recession

  • Jesse Rothstein

Nearly two years after the official end of the "Great Recession," the labor market remains historically weak. One candidate explanation is supply-side effects driven by dramatic expansions of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit durations, to as many as 99 weeks. This paper investigates the effect of these UI extensions on job search and reemployment. I use the longitudinal structure of the Current Population Survey to construct unemployment exit hazards that vary across states, over time, and between individuals with differing unemployment durations. I then use these hazards to explore a variety of comparisons intended to distinguish the effects of UI extensions from other determinants of employment outcomes. The various specifications yield quite similar results. UI extensions had significant but small negative effects on the probability that the eligible unemployed would exit unemployment, concentrated among the long-term unemployed. The estimates imply that UI benefit extensions raised the unemployment rate in early 2011 by only about 0.1-0.5 percentage points, much less than is implied by previous analyses, with at least half of this effect attributable to reduced labor force exit among the unemployed rather than to the changes in reemployment rates that are of greater policy concern.

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Article provided by Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution in its journal Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

Volume (Year): 43 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (Fall) ()
Pages: 143-213

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Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:43:y:2011:i:2011-02:p:143-213
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  1. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle," Discussion Papers 1303, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).
  2. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "A Macroeconomic Theory of Optimal Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 16526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Card & Raj Chetty & Andrea Weber, 2006. "Cash-on-Hand and Competing Models of Intertemporal Behavior: New Evidence from the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 12639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Bhash Mazumder, 2011. "How did unemployment insurance extensions affect the unemployment rate in 2008–10?," Chicago Fed Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Apr.
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  11. Kroft, Kory & Notowidigdo, Matthew J., 2012. "Should Unemployment Insurance Vary with the Unemployment Rate? Theory and Evidence," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2012-26, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 29 Oct 2012.
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  13. Mark Duggan & Scott A. Imberman, 2009. "Why Are the Disability Rolls Skyrocketing? The Contribution of Population Characteristics, Economic Conditions, and Program Generosity," NBER Chapters, in: Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability among the Elderly, pages 337-379 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Daniel Aaronson & Bhashkar Mazumder & Shani Schechter, 2010. "What is behind the rise in long-term unemployment?," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 28-51.
  15. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Moral Hazard vs. Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 13967, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
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