Workers who lose their jobs and collect unemployment insurance stay out of work for 21 weeks on average, more than twice as long as those who don’t collect the benefit.
That’s one conclusion drawn by congressional investigators who studied the habits and traits of workers seeking unemployment benefits. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources planned a Wednesday hearing to examine the findings.
The Government Accountability Office found that workers who do not collect unemployment benefits remain without a job for eight weeks on average. Those who do collect the benefit stay unemployed for 21 weeks.
The report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the finding is consistent with economists’ assumptions that workers collecting unemployment benefits can search longer for a more desirable job.
The study also found that workers are much more likely to receive unemployment benefits if they’ve received them in the past. “This finding suggests that a worker’s first unemployment experience has a lasting and self-reinforcing effect,” the report said.
The investigators could not explain some of their findings, such as why women appear to be more likely to get unemployment insurance than men or why married workers tend to be more likely than unmarried workers to get benefits.
The GAO found that workers who earn lower wages tend to be less likely to seek unemployment benefits after losing a job than workers with higher wages. The investigators said higher-paid workers may be less likely to accept lower-paying work and want to subsidize their job searches.
The likelihood of receiving unemployment peaks at age 25 and decreases with age. A 25-year-old is twice as likely to receive unemployment than a 40-year-old.
That’s another finding the GAO could not explain, but investigators speculated that older workers may have accumulated savings and other financial assets to get through periods of unemployment.
The likelihood an individual will seek unemployment benefits also increases with each additional year of schooling.
The unemployment insurance program replaces earnings for workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own and can help stabilize the economy during economic recessions. States administer the program under federal guidelines and oversight.