Unemployment Benefits

States Cut Unemployment Benefits

They're an expensive counter-incentive to work


North Carolina drew national attention last week when it dramatically scaled back its unemployment insurance program, ending benefits for tens of thousands and slashing the amount of time that jobless people can collect aid.

But the North Carolina reductions, which drew fierce protests in Raleigh, were just the latest in a string of unprecedented and historic state cuts in unemployment aid. Even as the nation's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, other states have cut unemployment benefits to levels not seen since the 1935 Social Security Act created the program.

Since it became the standard decades ago, no state has offered fewer than 26 weeks of benefits —until recently. Georgia's benefits now run out after 18 weeks, and five other states have set limits of either 19 or 20 weeks. Of the 11.8 million unemployed Americans, 4.3 million have been without work for 27 weeks or longer, according to the most recent federal data.