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Highlights

The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program has been a key component in ensuring the financial security of America's workforce. In the 72 years since the UI program began, the nature of work has changed in fundamental ways. In recent decades the number of low-wage jobs, the average duration of unemployment, and the number of women in the workforce have all increased. This testimony addresses: (1) the overall trend in the usage of UI; (2) the likelihood that low-wage workers will be unemployed and receive UI benefits, especially when compared to higher-wage workers; and (3) the likelihood that part-time workers receive UI benefits. This testimony is based primarily on GAO's September 2007 report (GAO-07-1147) on the same topic as well additional analyses. In that report, GAO made no recommendations and the Department of Labor generally agreed with the findings. For that report, GAO analyzed data on UI regular program recipiency rates provided by Labor, and GAO examined data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a national database maintained by the Bureau of the Census. For GAO's purposes, SIPP data were available for the periods 1992 through 1995, 1998 and 2003.

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