Since the recession started in December of 2007, the official unemployment rate has doubled to 9.8 percent, a 26-year high. As bad as that number is, the situation in reality is even worse. In fact, 17 percent of the American workforce today is either unemployed or underemployed. That adds up to about 27.2 million Americans. Senator Bernie Sanders is a cosponsor of legislation that would provide an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits in all 50 states. “We cannot turn our backs on jobless Americans by letting their unemployment insurance expire. That would be driving people into the abyss, and we cannot do that,” Sanders told Senate colleagues in a floor speech on Wednesday.
Throughout the country there are only about 2.4 million job openings. Today, 5.4 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months, the highest on record. The average length of unemployment is now 27 weeks, the longest since the end of World War II. There are fewer jobs in America today than there were in 2000, although the workforce has grown by over 12 million since that time.
For weeks, Senate Republicans have blocked consideration of the legislation to extend benefits. With each passing day, some 7,000 Americans have lost their unemployment benefits. In the weeks since Republicans first threw up parliamentary roadblocks to the legislation, nearly 150,000 Americans have lost benefits.
To watch the senator's floor speech, click here.