But digging into the data suggests
Republicans, who voted against extending unemployment benefits, argue that ending benefits will spur the long-term jobless to look harder for work; with more eager workers, employment will rise, conservatives say. Democrats, many of whom voted to continue jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, say that ending benefits will force the unemployed to cut their spending, which may have broader ripple effects that could slow the labor market recovery.
My reading of the
The question of whether to provide those benefits is an important one. But perhaps the answers should depend more on social values than on macroeconomic implications. After all, the point of unemployment insurance isn't to boost the economy as a whole, but rather to ensure that an unlucky few don't shoulder an unbearable burden. Whether we're doing that is a question more of values than of economic statistics.
Let's dig into the details on
Proponents of the policy say it succeeded. They point to the fact that the state's economy has done quite well since the change. Employment grew by 1.5 percent over the six months since the change took effect. While this growth rate is healthy, what matters here is whether it is better or worse than it would have been without such a policy shift.
To shed light on that issue, we need a comparison group: an otherwise similar state that made no such change. The most obvious possibility is
The unemployment rate also fell quite sharply in both states, although slightly more in
Among other neighboring states,
The bottom line is that
Some of the claims to the contrary rely on the fact that
Moreover, there are enough noisy indicators that pundits have been able to cherry-pick specific numbers to support stronger claims, even though they are at odds with the broader trends seen in the most reliable of these statistics.
Half a year after
Some conservatives have argued that the subsequent improvement in the labor market this year is proof that ending extended benefits was a wise policy; the acceleration of job growth, in their view, was caused partly by the benefits cut. However, this conclusion follows only if the economy improved by more than it would have if there were no policy change. Once again, what is needed is a comparison group: a state that didn't cut benefits at the start of this year.
This is where
Yet over the six months since federal benefits ended, nonfarm payrolls grew by 0.6 percent in
How, then, have advocates come to different conclusions? They have relied on evidence that isn't really evidence, often to support conclusions that fit their pre-existing views. It can make for claims that sound persuasive on the surface but do not stand up to scrutiny.
The 50 states in this country are often called laboratories of democracy. They can also be laboratories of economics.
DRAWING (DRAWING BY
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