Reemployment bonus experiments offer large lump sum payments to
unemployment insurance (UI) recipients who find a job quickly. Such
experiments are underway or have been recently completed in four states. This
paper analyzes the results from Illinois and discusses the implications of the
experiments for theories of unemployment and policy design. I examine the
hazard rate of exit from unemployment and find that it is significantly higher
for the experimental groups, but only during the period of bonus eligibility.
Both labor supply and search theories of unemployment are shown to suggest a
rise in the reemployment hazard just before the end of bonus eligibility and
to suggest larger effects of the fixed amount bonus for lower income groups.
Only weak support is found for these hypotheses, which suggests limitations of
the models of unemployment. Some modifications of the models are suggested.
The experiments demonstrate the effects of economic incentives on job
finding behavior but they do not show the desirability of a permanent
reemployment bonus program. Evidence from another sample suggests that as
many as half of those who received a reemployment bonus returned to their
previous employer, so that a bonus program that pays people returning to their
last employer would provide a strong encouragement to temporary layoffs. A
discussion of UI claim filing behavior suggests that a permanent program could
well increase the frequency or promptness of filing, thus reducing any
financial advantages of a bonus program.
Reemployment bonus experiments offer large lump sum payments to
The US unemployment insurance system is financed by an experience-rated
payroll tax. The system imposes a layoff or firing cost on employers, leading
them to fire fewer workers in a downturn and hire fewer workers in an upturn.
Increases in the degree of experience rating are therefore predicted to reduce
the temporary layoff unemployment rate in a recession, and to lower employment
at the peak of the business cycle.
We combine Current Population Survey data for l979-1987 with a newly
assembled database of experience rating factors for individual states and
industries to measure the effects of imperfect experience rating on temporary
layoff unemployment rates over the cycle. We find a strong negative
correlation between the degree of experience rating and the rate of layoff
unemployment in recessionary years, but smaller and unsystematic correlations
in expansionary years. We also find that cyclical employment fluctuations are
dampened in states and industries with a greater degree of experience rating.
This paper assesses the ability of a simple search—theoretic
model to explain the results of two controlled reemployment bonus
experiments. The availability of two independent experiments
with substantially different treatments allows for a rigorous
test of the model. Parameters of the model are estimated by
minimizing the distance between the observed and predicted
aggregate response in each experiment, then cross-validated using
the observed and predicted treatment response from the other
experiment. The model is unable to predict an effect as large as
that observed in one of the experiments. In addition, the model
cannot explain the degree of individual—specific wage variability
found in the data. The relative success of models with and
without variable search intensity is also considered, but the
statistical procedures cannot distinguish between them.
In this paper, I consider the effect of changing the level of unemployment
insurance (UI) benefits on workers who do not receive UI. I hypothesize that
a spillover effect between insured and uninsured workers exists so that an
increase in the UI benefits, which leads to longer durations of unemployment
for insured workers, will lead to a reduction in the duration of unemployment
for the uninsured. This prediction is tested using data from several March
Current Population Surveys and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. In
both samples I find that an increase in UI benefits leads to a reduction in
the duration of unemployment for uninsured workers. Furthermore, using
several years of state level data, I show that the estimated effect on
unemployment for the entire labor force is roughly zero when I allow for the
This paper presents new evidence on the reasons for the recent decline in
the fraction of unemployed workers who receive unemployment insurance benefits.
Using samples of unemployed workers from the March Current Population Survey,
we estimate the fraction of unemployed workers who are potentially eligible for
benefits in each year and compare this to the fraction who actually receive
unemployment compensation. Perhaps surprisingly, we find that the decline in
the fraction of insured unemployment is due to a decline in the takeup rate for
benefits. Our estimates indicate that takeup rates declined abruptly between
l98O and 1982, leading to a 6 percentage point decline in the fraction of the
unemployed who receive benefits.
We go on to analyse the determinants of the takeup rate for unemployment
benefits, using both aggregated state-level data and micro-data from the Panel
Study of Income Dynamics. Changes in the regional distribution of unemployment
account for roughly one-half of the decline in average takeup rates. The
remainder of the change is largely unexplained.
This paper provides new evidence on job search intensity of the unemployed in the U.S., modeling job search intensity as time allocated to job search activities. The main findings are: 1) the average unemployed worker in the U.S. devotes about 41 minutes to job search on weekdays, which is substantially more than his or her European counterpart; 2) workers who expect to be recalled by their previous employer search substantially less than the average unemployed worker; 3) across the 50 states and D.C., job search is inversely related to the generosity of unemployment benefits, with an elasticity between -1.6 and -2.2; 4) the predicted wage is a strong predictor of time devoted to job search, with an elasticity in excess of 2.5; 5) job search intensity for those eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) increases prior to benefit exhaustion; 6) time devoted to job search is fairly constant regardless of unemployment duration for those who are ineligible for UI. A nonparametric Monte Carlo technique suggests that the relationship between job search effort and the duration of unemployment for a cross-section of job seekers is only slightly biased by length-based sampling.
In response to the Great Recession and sustained labor market downturn, the availability of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits was extended to new historical highs in the United States, up to 99 weeks as of late 2009 into 2012. We exploit variation in the timing and size of UI benefit extensions across states to estimate the overall impact of these extensions onunemployment duration, comparing the experience with the prior extension of benefits (up to 72 weeks) during the much milder downturn in the early 2000s. Using monthly matched individual data from the U.S. Current Population Survey(CPS) for the periods 2000-2005 and 2007-2012, we estimate the effects of UI extensions on unemployment transitions and duration. We rely on individual variation in benefit availability based on the duration of unemployment spells and the length of UI benefits available in the state and month,conditional on state economic conditions and individual characteristics. We find a small
but statistically significant reduction in the unemployment exit rate and a small increase in the expected duration of unemployment arising from both sets of UI extensions. The effect on exits and duration is primarily due to a reduction in exits from the labor force rather than a decrease in exits to employment (the job ending rate). The magnitude of the overall effect on exits and duration is similar across the two episodes of benefit extensions.
Although the overall effect of UI extensions on exits from unemployment is small, it implies a substantial effect of extended benefits on the steady-state share of unemployment in the cross-section that is long-term.
Recent efforts to expand unemployment insurance (UI) eligibility are expected to increase low-earning workers’ access to UI. Although the expansion’s aim is to smooth the
income and consumption of previously ineligible workers, it is possible that UI benefits simply displace other sources of income. Standard economic models predict that UI delays reemployment, thereby reducing wage income. Additionally, low-earning workers are often eligible for benefits from means-tested programs, which may decrease with UI benefits. In this paper, we estimate the impact of UI eligibility on employment, means-tested program participation, and income after job loss using a unique individual-level administrative data set from the state of Michigan. To identify a causal effect, we implement a fuzzy regression discontinuity design around the minimum earnings threshold for UI eligibility. Our main finding is that while UI eligibility increases jobless durations by up to 25 percent and temporarily lowers receipt of cash assistance (TANF) by 63 percent, the net impact on total income is still positive and large: In the quarter immediately following job loss, UI-eligible workers have 46-61 percent higher incomes than ineligibles.
In this paper we report the results of randomized trials designed to measure whether stricter
enforcement and verification of work search behavior alone decreases unemployment insurance (Ul)
claims and benefits. These experiments were designed to explicitly test claims based on
nonexperimental data, that a prime cause of overpayment is the failure of claimants to actively seek
work. Our results provide no support for the view that the failure to actively search for work has been a
cause of overpayment in the UI system.
Throughout the late 1980s unemployment rates remained 2-3 percentage
points higher in Canada than the U.S. We use individual microdata from the
U.S. Current Population Survey and the Canadian Survey of Consumer Finances
to study the emerging unemployment gap between the two countries. For
women, we find that the relative rise in Canadian unemployment occurred
with relative increases in per capita weeks of work. The unemployment gap
for Canadian women was driven by a rise in the probability that nonworkers
are classified as "unemployed" as opposed to "out of the labor force". For
men, the increase in unemployment was accompanied by a relative decrease in
Canadian employment rates, and an increase in the probability that men with
no weeks of work are classified as "in the labor force". A comparison of
annual work patterns and income recipiency in the two countries suggests
that Canadians of both sexes have increasingly adjusted their labor supply
to the parameters of the Canadian Unemployment Insurance system.