Opinion: Federal unemployment benefits are coming to an end

Mark Harmsworth, of the Washington Policy Center, suggests that unemployed workers should be aggressively trying to find a new position now to avoid the rush once benefits end.

Mark Harmsworth, director small business center of the Washington Policy Center
Mark Harmsworth, director small business center of the Washington Policy Center

Mark Harmsworth
Washington Policy Center

On Sept. 4 the federally funded unemployment benefits that over 120,000 Washington workers have been receiving will end. Some unemployed workers may have the opportunity to extend benefits if they qualify, but for the majority of workers that are currently claiming unemployment benefits that will not be the case.

The federal government Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program has added to the amount of benefits Washington State has been paying workers who either lost their jobs or were mandated to stay home as part of the pandemic response last year. The federal program, which added an extra $300 a week, will also stop.

Mark Harmsworth, of the Washington Policy Center, suggests that unemployed workers should be aggressively trying to find a new position now to avoid the rush once benefits end.

For workers who have benefitted from the additional benefit payments, time is of the essence if they want to find employment. After Sept. 4, when the benefits run out, there will be an estimated 71,000 unemployed Washington workers looking for work and while the job market has been recovering in the last few months, flooding the market with new workers will reduce the number of available positions.

Those workers holding out until the last benefit check arrives before earnestly looking for employment, may find it difficult to find a suitable position. While it may be financially more advantageous for some unemployed workers to stay on unemployment benefits for as long as possible, as benefits have, for some, been greater than the salary received while working, time is quickly running out.

An indication of the expected effect of ending benefits in Washington is illustrated by examining the 26 states that ended the unemployment benefits earlier this year. It might seem obvious, but these states saw a decrease in job availability as workers returned to the workforce. The Washington job market will go through a similar change, but at an accelerated rate due to multiple unemployment benefit programs ending at the same time.

Unemployed workers should be aggressively trying to find a new position now to avoid the rush once benefits end.

Mark Harmsworth is the director of the Center for Small Business at the Washington Policy Center.

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