Historically Small Share of Jobless People Are Receiving Unemployment Insurance

Source: Josh Bivens, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, September 25, 2014

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a crucial component of the American social safety net, but since 2010, the share of unemployed workers receiving UI benefits has eroded to one of its lowest points in decades. The figure below shows the share of unemployed workers in the United States who receive unemployment compensation benefits, including standard benefits and the extended benefits that are often legislated in the wake of economic downturns. Because unemployment is seasonal, the line in the chart shows a 12-month moving average of the recipiency rate. Because this 12-month moving average includes months that occurred before the latest round of emergency extended benefits were cut off, the blue dots pinpoint the recipiency rate for August 2014 (the last month of available data) and the rate that prevailed in August of each of the previous years as well. This August-to-August comparison helps emphasize how low UI recipiency is likely to be for the full 12 months of 2014.