Many Americans still exhaust jobless benefits

Published: Nov 13, 2014 1:37 p.m. ET


Jeffry Bartash


WASHINGTON (MarketWatch)—The number of Americans applying for unemployment compensation is near a 15-year low, but a higher percentage than usual still don’t find jobs before their benefits run out.

The percentage of people who received unemployment benefits each week until they were no longer eligible stood at a 12-month average of 41.5% in September, according to Labor Department data.

In other words, more than four in 10 unemployed Americans still exhaust their benefits before finding a job.

Granted, the rate has fallen sharply from a postrecession peak of 55.8% in March 2010—the highest level since the government began keeping track in 1972. But the rate is still markedly higher vs. a 34.7% low point reached during the 2002-2006 expansion.

The percentage who exhaust benefits is also well above the historical average of 35.9%.

The U.S. labor market is improving, but a variety of measures such as the exhaustion rate for unemployment benefits shows that a lot more work needs to be done.

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