Unemployment Insurance


In the United States, Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a state-federal program that was established in 1935 under the Social Security Act to insure workers against brief spells of involuntary job loss. In most states, eligible workers may receive up to 26 weeks of regular benefits. During periods of high unemployment such as the Great Recession which began in December 2007, extended benefits are available. In recent years, critics have argued that UI is outmoded because it does too little to address the problems faced by dislocated workers and tends to exclude workers who do not have a traditional full-time, full-year work history, particularly low-wage women.


  • Are eligibility requirements for UI too stringent or too lax?
  • Is the duration of UI benefits adequate?
  • What can be done to improve reemployment services?
  • Are short-time compensation and wage subsidies effective means of preserving jobs?
  • What can be done to improve the efficiency of UI administration?
  • What are the options for improving the financial soundness of UI?

Selected Upjohn Research

Financing Unemployment Insurance
Wayne Vromanj, Urban Institute
Stephen A. Woodbury, Michigan State University and W.E. Upjohn Institute
National Tax Journal 67(1): 253-268, 2014

Unemployment Insurance
Stephen A. Woodbury, Michigan State University and W.E. Upjohn Institute
Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 14-208, September 2013

Short-Time Compensation as a Tool to Mitigate Job Loss? Evidence on the U.S. Experience during the Recent Recession
Katharine G. Abraham, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute
Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 12-181, March 2012

Use of Unemployment Insurance and Employment Services by Newly Unemployed Leavers from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Christopher O’Leary, Upjohn Institute
Kenneth Kline, Upjohn Institute
Final Report submitted to U.S. Department of Labor, December 2009

Unemployment Insurance in the United States: Analysis of Policy Issues
Christopher O’Leary, Upjohn Institute
Stephen A. Wandner, UI Service, U.S. Department of Labor
Upjohn Institute Press, 1997

More Institute Research about Unemployment Insurance

Useful Links

U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL)     
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)     
Employment and Training Administration (ETA)    
Information Technology Support Center (ITSC)
National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA)
National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI)