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Matthew Yglesias

Focus on Better Jobs, Not Better Jobless Benefits

The expiration of extra unemployment assistance provided during the pandemic is not the calamity that many progressives say it is. 

The jobs are out there.

The jobs are out there.

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images North America

Emergency unemployment benefits are ending this month for about 7.5 million Americans, prompting much anxiety about their fate. Even some of President Joe Biden’s aides are upset at their boss’s refusal to push for an extension of the program, telling the Washington Post that a “cutoff of benefits poses a serious danger to millions of Americans who remain out of work.”

Their boss’s more serene view is more likely correct. There is an in-the-weeds academic debate over whether enhanced jobless benefits, instituted because of the pandemic, are causing a meaningful reduction in job growth. (Short version: There are several studies showing only a modest impact on growth, and there are many commentators on the left spinning those results as showing no impact.) But the big picture is clear: After hitting a record high in June, job openings hit a new record high in July.