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COVID & Unemployment

Why people are dropping unemployment benefits before they run out

Caroline Champlin Jun 29, 2021
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Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Why people are dropping unemployment benefits before they run out

Caroline Champlin Jun 29, 2021
Heard on:
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
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COPY

Pandemic employment benefits have ended in many states, including Texas and Florida. But even before that, people in those states were leaving the unemployment rolls well ahead of the deadline, according to a new report from Jefferies Financial Group.

Does that mean those people have found new jobs? Not necessarily. So, why would people give up free money? The answer depends on who you ask.

For one thing, early deadlines can be motivating, said Aneta Markowska, chief economist with Jefferies. “People get more serious about their job search and when they get offers, they take them.”

Markowska figures the people jumping off unemployment insurance have settled into new jobs. But Yale economist Dana Scott, who co-authored a study on pandemic unemployment, said that’s not always the case.

“Workers know that employers are desperate,” she said. Scott said some people may have already quit a new job and are holding out without pay for something better.

Jesse Rothstein, who teaches public policy and economics at the University of California, Berkeley, said that what’s happening with early deadlines and declining numbers of unemployment recipients won’t be universal.

“These states are very nonrepresentative,” he said, adding that many states lifted lockdowns a while ago, and their unemployment rates were already falling faster than those in the rest of the U.S.

These economists said they won’t know the real effect of these deadlines until the state jobs numbers come out next month.

Correction (June 29, 2021): A previous version of this story misstated Dana Scott’s pronouns. The text has been corrected.

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