Who are the 99ers? Do they signify the start of a depression?

The 99ers are the people who have been on unemployment for 99 weeks or more.  There are  a total of 1.4 million people who have not worked for two years.  The average unemployed worker in this group has been unemployed for about 8 months.  This is unprecedented in American history except for the great depression and we have never had people on unemployment compensation this long ever before.

They held a rally in New York recently to protest and demand another extension of their unemployment benefits.  Their benefits are now exhausted and many 99ers have exhausted their savings and are living on borrowed money.  Some are becoming homeless.  At their rally near the New York Stock Exchange the 99ers are telling stories of the agony of their ordeal and they are demanding more benefits.

They apparently can’t find a job because their no one is hiring.  We have to ask how long can we sustain this and how long should the unemployment compensation system carry them?  Can the country continue to lose jobs, have perennially high unemployment, and have a larger and larger segment of society live on government benefits?

The 99ers have connected through websites and listservs and they have teamed up with the major labor unions who support their cause.  They are now a political force and democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow and Sherrod Brown have responded and co-sponsored a bill to extend unemployment yet again to 119 weeks.  I guess then we have to call them the 119ers.  Are we ready for a permanently unemployed class of people?

I am a bankruptcy lawyer in San Diego.

Please visit my website at www.farquharlaw.com

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