WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement on the February employment numbers. Friday’s report shows that the economy added 175,000 jobs, yet the current unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.
“Today’s jobs report shows that our economy is slowly and steadily improving with 175,000 jobs added in February. Industries across a wide variety of sectors, including healthcare, construction, and business and professional services grew last month. Despite this improvement, there are still millions of long-term unemployed Americans—including tens of thousands of Iowans—who face extraordinary hurdles to finding new work. And because Congress let federal unemployment insurance expire, these jobseeekers have been cut off from the last lifeline of support that has helped them keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
“Our economy is strongest when we grow together, and it is absolutely critical that Congress continues to support people who have been pounding the pavement for new work for six months or more and who are in dire straits financially. It’s time to end the political games and to act now to restore these critical benefits to give millions of American families the help they need to survive while they continue their job search and get back on their feet.”
In an effort to stabilize the economy and prevent millions of Americans from having their federal jobless benefits cut off, last year Harkin joined Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to introduce the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Extension Act of 2013. This bill will provide relief for both states and struggling families by extending federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits through 2014. Senator Harkin has also supported other efforts to extend unemployment insurance.
Continued inaction to restore UI is hurting millions of Americans who have been cut off from the emergency program. Already 2 million workers, including nearly 11,000 Iowans, have been cut off from UI either because they were participating in the program when it expired at the end of 2013 or because they have exhausted their state’s benefits since then and have had no federal program to turn to.
If Congress does not renew the law, a total of nearly 5 million jobseekers will lose access to unemployment insurance by the end of the year.