There was good news for our flailing economy from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this month. More than 150,000 jobs were added in the United States in October and private sector payrolls grew by 159,000.
But there was some news that didn't change: unemployment held steady at 9.6 percent. Almost 15 million Americans are out of work and more than 41 percent of them have been unemployed for six months or more. So, adding 150,000 jobs, while a good sign, is still just a drop in the economic bucket.
With job growth still sluggish, and with so many people out of work, it's critical that unemployment benefits not be allowed to expire. President Obama has even expressed his support for this important step, saying "I think it makes sense for us to extend unemployment insurance because there are still a lot of folks out there hurting."
But the President obviously can't do it alone. This is a job for the lame duck Congress, returning to the hill this week -- and partisan politics should not get in the way.
Emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of this month. If no extension is approved, two million American workers will lose their unemployment benefits -- and more importantly lose their lifeline to economic security for themselves and their families -- just in time for the holidays.
"The current expiration date will cause a cascade of unemployed workers to fall off the unemployment rolls, prematurely cutting benefits for some and making any form of an extension completely unavailable for others," according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Plus, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, there are still far more unemployed workers than there are job openings.
This is worth noting, too: An extension of benefits does not mean that workers who have completely exhausted their benefits will get even one penny more. It only means that those who are currently receiving UI benefits will not get cut off mid stream.
It means that working women -- who face staggering unemployment at the same time that women are now the primary or co-breadwinner in more than two-thirds of American families -- will be able to provide for their families; to make ends meet. Really, every dollar provided in UI benefits for struggling families pumps two dollars back into our economy because they have so many needs. These aren't dollars that get stored up somewhere for savings. These are dollars that are needed and spent right now; for food, for clothing, for rent, for utilities -- to keep the lights on and the furnace going.
The lame duck Congress can't leave American families out in the cold this holiday season.
It doesn't have much time. It must extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits and do so quickly.
America's families are waiting.