Scholar digs into why people with generous unemployment benefits take longer to find work

Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

Last year, with monthly unemployment ranging from 2.2% to 3.9%, about 142,300 Minnesotans received a payment, totaling about $791 million. That compares to about $2.8 billion spent in 2010, near the end of the effects of the last recession. There were more than 348,700 job seekers in the state that year.

"It's important to question how much benefit unemployment insurance provides and to clearly understand what the pros and cons are of higher vs. lower levels," Wanberg said.

"I wouldn't want somebody to view this as saying, We provide too many benefits in the U.S. or we should cut them further," she added. "When you take a closer look, the mental health benefits are pretty serious."

Marsheela Outlaw, 62, lost her job on a Friday in mid-June and by Monday she had found her way to a workforce center in Bloomington, Minn.

She quickly developed a plan: Work on her resume, attend classes on interview skills, find a support network of other job seekers, apply for at least two jobs a week.

"Every now and then I do have a little anxiety," said Outlaw, who had spent 18 years as an executive assistant at Regis Corp.

Last fall, she took a position with HealthEZ, and then the company laid her off within a year. Now, she's dipping into her savings to make the $519 weekly unemployment checks last.

"I just want to make sure I get a job that fits," she said, acknowledging she might have to earn less money.


"That's why I'm not jumping at anything that comes along anymore. I'm trying to get to retirement."

Tom Reese, a workforce development specialist who manages the CareerForce office in Bloomington, said many laid-off workers need help moving through the stages of grief.

The center's classes, training and one-on-one counseling aim to help people deal with stress while also getting focused on landing a new job.

"It's harsh but we say, 'We don't want to see you again,' " he said. "Don't just grab the first thing. Don't let stress get to the point where you're not making good choices."

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