Unemployment Insurance Exhaustees Study

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

The recession that began in late 2007 increased the job finding difficulties facing recipients of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. In response to sharply rising durations of joblessness, the Federal government substantially expanded the number of weeks of UI benefits available to eligible individuals. In some states, recipients could receive benefits for up to 99 weeks, which was almost four times the typical limit of 26 weeks during healthy economic times. Despite this expansion, large numbers of workers remained unemployed long enough to exhaust their entire benefit entitlements. There is little information about the characteristics of these “exhaustees” or about their labor market experiences, economic well-being, and participation in other government support programs after they ran out of UI benefits.

Recognizing that learning more about exhaustees might be helpful in formulating UI policy in the future, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, contracted with Mathematica to conduct an in-depth research study of exhaustees and other long-term unemployed workers. Concentrating on individuals who lost jobs during the Great Recession, the study described the number and characteristics of UI exhaustees; their poverty status and reemployment services receipt; and their labor market outcomes and sources of income. The study also examined differences between UI exhaustees and other long-term unemployed workers.

This study used several data sources to conduct this research, including administrative data on UI claims and wage records from at least 10 states that were previously collected by Mathematica for DOL as part of the Evaluation of the Unemployment Compensation Provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Survey data from that previous DOL study was also used to provide additional detail about exhaustees’ labor market activities, participation in government programs, and general economic welfare. Finally, the UI Exhaustees study team analyzed publicly available data from the Displaced Workers Supplement to the Current Population Survey to provide comparisons about the experiences and outcomes of UI recipients and nonrecipients.