blue_smokey_mtns_for_ksjd_web_header.jpg
Ideas. Stories. Community.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Biden Warns Workers Not To Turn Down Jobs To Remain On Unemployment

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden delivered a warning yesterday to unemployed Americans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If you're receiving unemployment benefits and you're offered a suitable job, you can't refuse that job and just keep getting the unemployment benefits.

INSKEEP: Republicans in Congress and some business groups have alleged that pandemic unemployment benefits, which are higher, have been keeping people out of the workforce. Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary is with us next. Good morning.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I'm just trying to think through what we really know here. Statistically, we know that people have generally been going back to work in recent months. Anecdotally, we have heard of some people who prefer to stay home or even think they're getting more for unemployment than from their jobs. But generally speaking, does it make financial sense for some people to stay out of work?

SINGLETARY: So I don't believe those anecdotes at all. There is no credible studies that show that people are more likely to not search for a job if they get enhanced benefits, in fact, just the opposite. The Chicago Federal Reserve found that those receiving those amped-up benefits were twice as likely to look for a job than those who exhausted their benefits. Those anecdotes, what they're really - the basis of those is that people are saying, I don't have childcare. Or I have an underlying medical condition. Those are often the reasons why people don't take a job while they're still on unemployment.

INSKEEP: Wow. That thing about people being more likely to look for work if they have a higher unemployment benefit, I'm trying to think that through. Does that just mean that people are in a little better shape to go looking for work? They can afford some new clothes, they can afford a babysitter while they're searching for work, that sort of thing?

SINGLETARY: Exactly. Exactly. And everyone who's ever lost a job knows it's easier to get a job the closer you are to when you have lost the job. If you're out of work, the longer you are out of work, the harder it is. And so they know that when those benefits are about to end that they need to race and get a job to make sure they're employed. And I'm just - it just - I'm telling you, I'm so upset when they talk about these anecdotes because they're not based on facts. And if those folks had ever truly worked with people who are unemployed, they know that those folks want to work.

INSKEEP: I believe 29 states have now reinstated requirements that if you're getting unemployment benefits, you need to be searching for jobs and, I guess, document to the state that you're searching for jobs, which, I imagine, feels degrading to a lot of people. But this is the requirement. Does it matter if the state requires that you go looking for work?

SINGLETARY: Well, first of all, they've always required it. That's like saying I'm going to demand that you breathe when you're already breathing, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Go on.

SINGLETARY: It's already a rule that they have to do that. And I think that President Biden said that to just say, OK, I know y'all saying this crazy stuff. But let me just reiterate that that is already the rule of the land, that you have to continue to look for a job. Listen - and all those people who are listening who hear those anecdotes, I know that they get very upset because in America, you - those people want to work. And they get more in the long term. They know that those benefits are going to run out. And anybody who knows that those benefits are going to run out wants to find a job.

INSKEEP: Michelle Singletary, it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

SINGLETARY: You're so welcome.

INSKEEP: Michelle Singletary is a financial columnist for The Washington Post.

(SOUNDBITE OF KORESMA'S "CLOUDS (INSIGHT VOL. 3)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.