Unemployment benefits for millions of out-of-work Americans have been extended for at least another 13 months as part of compromise tax bill signed by President Obama. That may be good news for a large percentage of the nation's unemployed, but there's a growing group of out-of-work Americans known as the 99ers for whom the extension doesn't help at all.
That's because as written, the extensions only allow unemployed workers to receive benefits for up to 99 weeks. After that, they're on their own.
This is causing some major concern, especially in those states where unemployment is between 12-14% and where the number of 99ers is increasing. According to the Labor Department, there already are over a million people who no longer receive unemployment benefits because they've been out of work for more than two years.
The largest surge in claims for unemployment came in early 2009 with the peak hitting 643,000 claims in a single week came in March. That's about 90 weeks ago so there's a large group of unemployed who are about to run out of benefits soon, as they join the 99 week club.
There are some who ran out before 99 weeks, which is the longest possible duration you can get benefits while on unemployment. But the real total varies by state depending on the unemployment rate and whether the state participates in certain voluntary programs.
Only 24 states and Washington D.C. offer the full 99 weeks. Six states offer benefits for 93 weeks, five for 86 weeks, nine 73 weeks, and five states only allow 60 weeks. Mississippi is the only stated that offers 79 weeks. The Labor Department says that as of November, more than 4.2 million people were unemployed for longer than 52 weeks.
Highest since 1970s
Nearly one-third of the estimated 10 million unemployed had been out of a job for more than a year, which is the highest they've been since the Labor Department began tracking them in the 1970s.
So what can the 99ers or anyone who runs out of unemployment benefits do to survive?
If they're fortunate enough to have any kind of savings or other assets they could carry them over until the job picture brightened enough for them to find work. But jobs for people who have been out of work for a long time are even harder to get. They may have to move to another area with a better job market.
Unemployment hit more than 14% in Nevada and over 12% in Florida. If someone hasn't found a job in 99 weeks, they probably live in a region with a poor job market. For example, in Mansfield, Ohio, the unemployment rate was 10.9% but just 66 miles away in Columbus, Ohio, the unemployment rate was only 8.4%.
Providence had an unemployment rate of 11.0% while Portsmouth, New Hampshire, two hours away, it was just 4.4%.
Without that weekly unemployment check, there's no time wait for your dream job. Take what's available. You need income of any kind so grab whatever job you can get for the time being.
If all of your options have been exhausted, the only thing left is welfare. Even though the government won't provide unemployment any longer, you could qualify for welfare.
Unfortunately, for many of these unemployed Americans, times aren't going to get easier anytime soon. The longer someone is unemployed, the harder it can sometimes be to find a job. And since the unemployment rate is expected to recede very slowly, employers will continue to be able to hold down wages and benefits without fearing that they won't be able to fill their vacancies.