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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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17534.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Publication status: published as Jesse Rothstein, 2011. "Unemployment Insrance and Job Search in the Great Recession," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 43(2 (Fall)), pages 143-213.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17534
Note: EFG LS PE
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  7. 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.
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  14. 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.
  15. 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.
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  19. 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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