April 6, 2009
In the coming weeks and months, hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits, just when it’s never been harder to find a job.
[efoods]Congress extended unemployment aid twice last year, allowing people to draw a total of up to 59 weeks of benefits. Now, as the recession drags on, a rolling wave of people who were laid off early last year will lose them.
Precise figures are hard to determine, but Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute, estimates that up to 700,000 people could exhaust their extended benefits by the second half of this year.
Some will find new jobs, but prospects will be grim: Layoffs are projected to go on, and many economists expect the jobless rate, already at 8.5 percent, to hit 10 percent by year’s end.
“It’s going to be a monstrous problem,” Vroman said.
U.S. employers shed 663,000 jobs in March, and the jobless rate now stands at its highest in a quarter-century. Since the recession began in December 2007, a net total of 5.1 million jobs have disappeared.
Those who know that their unemployment aid is about to run out are counting the days, taking on odd jobs, moving in with relatives and fretting about the future.