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Do Extended Unemployment Benefits Lengthen Unemployment Spells? Evidence from Recent Cycles in the U.S. Labor Market

  • Farber, Henry

    ()

    (Princeton University)

  • Valletta, Robert G.

    ()

    (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

In response to the Great Recession and sustained labor market downturn, the availability of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits was extended to historical highs in the United States. 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 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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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7347.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming in: Journal of Human Resources, 2015
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7347
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  1. David Howell, Bert M. Azizoglu, 2011. "Unemployment Benefits and Work Incentives: The U.S. Labor Market in the Great Recession," SCEPA working paper series. SCEPA's main areas of research are macroeconomic policy, inequality and poverty, and globalization. 2011-7, Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA), The New School.
  2. Michael Elsby & Bart Hobjin & Aysegül Sahin, 2010. "The labor market in the Great Recession," Working Paper Series 2010-07, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  3. Jesse Rothstein, 2011. "Unemployment Insurance and Job Search in the Great Recession," NBER Working Papers 17534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Phillip Levine, 1991. "Spillover Effects Between the Insured and Uninsured Unemployed," Working Papers 663, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Optimal unemployment insurance over the business cycle," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58321, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  7. Shigeru Fujita, 2010. "Economic effects of the unemployment insurance benefit," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q4, pages 20-27.
  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. Blank, Rebecca M & Card, David E, 1991. "Recent Trends in Insured and Uninsured Unemployment: Is There an Explanation?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1157-89, November.
  10. Raj Chetty, 2008. "Erratum: Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1197-1197, December.
  11. 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.
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  13. Camille Landais & Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "A Macroeconomic Theory of Optimal Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 16526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Chetty, Raj, 2008. "Moral Hazard versus Liquidity and Optimal Unemployment Insurance," Scholarly Articles 9751256, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  15. Moffitt, Robert, 1985. "Unemployment insurance and the distribution of unemployment spells," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 85-101, April.
  16. David Card & Phillip B. Levine, 1998. "Extended Benefits and the Duration of UI Spells: Evidence from the New Jersey Extended Benefit Program," NBER Working Papers 6714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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