On HUFF POST, a claim is made on July 7, 2014:

The past six months saw "the largest six-month decline in the length of unemployment ever measured," he said. "The debate on that extension is over, and the conservatives were right."


"The end of extended benefits should push down the jobless rate by both encouraging work among those who really want work and discouraging participation among those who really don’t," Stein wrote. "And, since the start of the year, we’ve had both faster payroll growth and a decline in the participation rate. Further supporting the case that ending extended benefits has helped: So far this year the median duration of unemployment has dropped to 13.1 weeks from 17.1 weeks, the steepest drop for any six months on record."

The reason offered is:

Krauthammer cited a National Review article by economist Robert Stein, which explained how dropping the benefits could contribute to a decline in the unemployment rate. (The government's monthly survey only counts people as unemployed if they say they've looked for work sometime in the previous four weeks. People without jobs who haven't looked in the past month don't even count as labor force participants.)

However, disagreement is also written:

Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal D.C. think tank, said Stein makes too much of the correlation between lapsed benefits and improved job growth.

"Just doing simple correlations you oftentimes are misled in an economy as complicated as ours is," Shierholz said. She pointed to recent research by Jesse Rothstein and others that found extended benefits do cause people to linger in the labor force longer than they otherwise might, which slightly increases the unemployment rate -- but not by the magnitude Stein suggests.

Is it true that the median unemployment duration dropped by the steepest amount ever in the US? If so, was it due to cutting unemployment benefits? If it wasn't due to the cuts, what caused the median unemployment duration to drop by "the steepest [amount] for any six months on record"?

  • 2
    The sub-question of "what caused the unemployment rate to drop" sounds like it will encourage a lot of opinion. If you attempt to answer that, please provide substantial references to peer-reviewed explanations by economists. – Oddthinking Jul 8 '14 at 5:17
  • @Oddthinking That was a typo. It should've been "median unemployment duration". It's more of a request for clarification for the counter-argument by EPI since they are very confident yet lacking in detail. I'm looking for research if available. – user20862 Jul 8 '14 at 12:13
  • Oh, I wasn't addressing the typo. Every time we get an economic question, we see to get people confidently spouting armchair economics, often along party lines. I was trying to head that off. – Oddthinking Jul 8 '14 at 14:43
  • And even if it's true does it mean they got decent jobs or that they were forced into major underemployment? – Loren Pechtel Jul 25 '14 at 17:26

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