New academic research released last week showing that extending unemployment benefits is a net economic drag could strengthen the conservative case against extending those benefits at the federal level.
Congress allowed benefits for the long-term unemployed to expire at the end of 2013 as part of a larger budget deal. Democrats have offered proposals to extend the benefits.
The latest legislation, a 10-month extension with budget offsets, was held up in the Senate on Thursday after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) blocked Republicans from offering amendments.
The liberal case for an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed rests on the supposed stimulative effect of greater disposable income for the unemployed.
The new study, conducted by economists at the University of Pennsylvania and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, contends that any such stimulus is dwarfed by the economic damage done by extending jobless benefits.
The study examines policies enacted by North Carolina that reduced the length and generosity of unemployment benefits from the state. The reforms have been presented as a test case on the likely effects of allowing federal benefits to expire.
The study found that the state’s reforms were an economic positive. After the reforms were implemented the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed workers both declined, even as it saw “a strong increase in the labor force.”
The increase in North Carolina employment was primarily in the private sector. Wages and earners remained mostly steady, while the average number of hours worked slightly increased.
The results stood in stark contrast to employment trends in neighboring South Carolina and Virginia.
“North Carolina stands out among its neighbors in the improvement in its labor market performance since its unemployment insurance system was reformed,” the study said.