Reforming Unemployment Insurance to Protect Jobs and Incomes for American Workers
In his inaugural address, President Obama praised workers who “would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job.” But in most states, our unemployment insurance (UI) system discourages reducing hours in this way. A worker who is laid off has access to UI benefits that temporarily cover part of lost wages, but a worker whose hours are reduced has no such access, creating an incentive for layoffs while leaving workers who face an involuntary reduction in their hours with no protection or support. Today the Department of Labor is issuing guidance on new legislation that will help to address these problems. This guidance is part of a series of important UI reforms designed to contribute to job creation and job placement that the President proposed in the American Jobs Act, were signed into law in February and are now being implemented.
Programs in some states that allow workers whose hours have been cut to claim pro-rated UI benefits—so-called short-time compensation or work sharing programs—help to keep workers on the job. President Obama has long advocated the expansion of work sharing to help employers and their workers. It’s an idea that has been supported by economists across the political spectrum. The President’s proposal to expand the number of states with work-sharing programs, and increase employer awareness of the benefits of work sharing, was included in both his FY 2012 and 2013 Budgets, and in last September’s American Jobs Act. That proposal was signed into law on a bipartisan basis as part of the February extension of the payroll tax cut, and is being implemented today through guidance released by the Labor Department.