Christopher J. O’Leary

Christopher J. O’Leary Senior Economist

Dr. O’Leary has evaluated ways to improve unemployment insurance and active labor market programs. His research has been supported by several states, federal agencies, the World Bank, ILO, and OECD. His papers and reports have been published widely and in several languages.

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Research Focus: Unemployment Insurance Policy

Unemployment insurance (UI) provides temporary partial wage replacement during periods of involuntary joblessness for labor force members. It is social insurance payable to eligible applicants regardless of their personal assets or the incomes of other household members, but it is not a dole. Benefit levels and durations are set by considerations of social adequacy, and beneficiaries must be actively seeking to return to work. Benefit payments are financed by experience-rated taxes on employer payrolls; with tax rates positively correlated with employer layoffs. Administrative expenses are paid from a federal fund raised by a payroll tax. The federal-state UI system has operated reliably for 75 years since it was established under provisions in the Social Security Act of 1935. The system is built on a variety of incentives for workers, employers, and government agencies. Since the 1960s the Upjohn Institute has sponsored and undertaken research aimed at improving the effectiveness of the UI system. Upjohn studies have examined: coverage, eligibility, benefits, taxes, and administration.

Publications on Unemployment Insurance