The 99ers

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dan Ariely, behavioral economist at Duke University and author of The Upside of Irrationality, takes a look at the so-called 99ers -- the segment of the population that has been unemployed for over ninety-nine weeks, at which point their unemployment benefits end. What's next for them?


Dan Ariely

Comments [33]

Hannah from Michigan

I bought into the American dream, and now I'm one of it's victims. I started my own Real Estate business in 1979, everything was great until the Bush administration dashed all our dreams. I've been working here and there until unemployment happened to me in the spring of 2009. Now I'm just another one of the 99'ers, who's been looking for work for nearly two years. As I see it the government is responsible for our sitution, it was bad governing that put us in the condition we're in, and they should accept their responsibility, and continue the unemployment for at least another 52! weeks. What do my fellow unemployed have to say about that? If they're going to change the dream, at least give us a warning.

Feb. 16 2011 11:07 AM
Karla from Manhattan

The behavioral economist's remarks validated the feelings I have been experiencing since I lost my job almost a year ago. This is very important because so many people ignore the emotional impact and just expect everyone who is collecting unemployment to "just get a job."

Dec. 20 2010 01:52 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, Ny

Hi, Brian, It is very hard to be and stay positive when nobody wants you or what you have to offer. At this point I feel invisible. It’s like I am not me anymore. The life I had once seems unreachable now, out of my grasp. I have been unemployed since I came back to the U.S. in December 2007. Before that, I got mortgage fraud, predatory lending and finally foreclosure in GA. I had to leave the country to be able to survive somewhere. I can’t survive very well here without a job and health insurance. I have had to let my teeth go without a dentist and my lower back without something to calm the pain. If I were to win the lottery like the bus driver you mentioned, there is no way that after all I have experienced lately, I would want to work. Forget about it. Nobody wants my talents and skills. If the banks got bailed out, why not the people too? Eugenia Renskoff

Dec. 20 2010 12:42 PM
New Yorker from New York City

We live in a world where it is very hard to get work nowadays; workers are poorly treated, exploited to the max; It is very hard for a family to manage; and yet we are concerned that there are people who are abusing the system more than we are concerned to create better work conditions and create more jobs; Unfortunately GOP used Obama into their game; Many people and their families are in the difficult situation at no fault of their own; those who are widely responsible for the failed economy won tax cuts for another two years; they really cared to pay minimum to the system they widely abused; Small abuse of unemployment benefits is nothing compared to wide abuse of the system by those who benefit from it the most.

Dec. 20 2010 12:17 PM
Angela Welch from Brooklyn

And I really dislike the title of this segment, and the use of the term in general. As people have pointed out the bill that passed only helps the "pre-99ers" the true 99ers are off the rolls altogether.

Dec. 20 2010 12:07 PM
Angela Welch from Brooklyn

Thank you RJ - all great comments.

Dec. 20 2010 12:02 PM
RJ from prospect hts

I disagree profoundly with what this "behavioral economist" just said. Yes, people find gratification in the work they do, and self-worth and dignity. But the way the US in particular has defined this is within a puritan ethic of work harder and longer for so-called greater productivity. We have not defined "work" in terms of how we make our community and our society happier--how to define work in ways that pay well enough, give flexibility enough for both individuals and families to live and work in ways that we can get not only our basic needs met (which unemployment usually barely does) but to live fulfilling lives, to have time with friends and family, to care for the younger and older fully (paid parental time for newborns and adoptions, care for sick parents), parent-teacher conferences, mental health days for oneself when life gets overwhelming, sick and vacation time/pay--a "successful" economy that is gauged by the feeling of well-being among the people. *Not* by the movements of the Dow and Nasdaq and the notion that only poor, working poor, working class, and middle class people must pay for the basics that are required to keep society moving: the roads, infrastructure, water services, etc., as "fees"--a nasty pseudonym for taxes.

Dec. 20 2010 11:43 AM
John L. from Brooklyn

The caller who complained about people quitting and getting unemployment does not have a full understanding of the system. Yes, there will always be people who successfully game the system. But that does not mean it always happened -- or that the "gaming" isn't being done by employers as well.

My son quit a job, to take a "better" job w/ another company. When he showed up to work as directed on day 1, the new employer sent him home, claiming they changed their minds and decided not to increase staff after all. His old job had already hired his replacement, and when he applied for unemployment, the new employer claimed he never worked for them, despite the fact that they verbally committed to him, gave him a reporting time, and never said anything otherwise to him until he showed up.

Unemployment ultimately sided w/ my son (after a long fight). And I'm sure the employer is now complaining how *they* were unfairly treated by the unemployment system.

Dec. 20 2010 11:41 AM
Judith from New Jersey

I am not an expert on this, but in the past, I have attended unemployment hearings for my employer in NJ and in another state.

Generally, when you quit a job and attempt to claim benefits, you have to make the case that the work environment was not appropriate for you in some significant fashion. .

I have found when the employer fights an employee's claim, the findings are generally rather fair. But employers need to know they can argue the claim. It is a bit time consuming for an small business.

Dec. 20 2010 11:41 AM
Connie from Westchester

What is the policy on collecting unemployment? I have collected unemployment insurance in both New York and Connecticut (lost 2 jobs by being fired once and downsized once) and each time I had to furnish proof that I did not leave of my own will. I never tried to collect from a job from which I voluntarily resigned(of which there were many... alas.).

Dec. 20 2010 11:39 AM
CIndy from Syracuse NY

The employer you had on there is full of crap. If someone quit for no reason they will not get unemployment. The employer can deny it and unless the person had just cause to quit they don't collect. She was outright lying and making it sound like unemployed are bums. Also 99 weeks is still the max and there are NO ADDITIONAL WEEKS of benefits for anyone. The 99ers got NOTHING in this bill and are increasing by 90,000 per week if not more. It's nice that you try and help bring the 99er plight to the public but ridiculous when you don't have the correct information and have idiots like that Heidi employer on your show. You should have had an unemployed person respond to her ludicrous comments.

Dec. 20 2010 11:38 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Another point to about the caller/business owner:

My girlfriend's collection of Unemployment Insurance a couple years ago was disputed by her former employers so they went before a tribunal. Because of the findings of that tribunal, the state of NJ has forced her to pay the amount she received back in full (which she is still paying back to this day).

Can the business owner not do this? Odd...

Dec. 20 2010 11:37 AM
Angela Welch from Brooklyn

That last caller was incorrect. The employer has an opportunity to contest the unemployment claim. And it's easily done - the employer is sent a form once the former employee files a claim asking if the employer wants to contest the claim. It's then up to the former employee to prove that they are eligible to collect unemployment.

Dec. 20 2010 11:35 AM

As I used to work in a hospital until I became disabled, one observation that was brought up repeatedly with service patients, those on Medicare and/or Medicaid.

Once people are out of work for a while their health suffers as well. The lack of social contact + lack of available consistent preventive care including dental, vision, leads to a measurable decrease in the overall health of presenting patients. This was born out not only in M&M/QA reports that I typed but in various peer reviewed studies.

One reason that the EU & Scandinavian countries have healthier workforces & general population is consistent care starting with effective pre-natal care which decreases the number of low birth weight & preemie births. Followed up with nutritional support throughout childhood, lots of exercise & early detection of vision problems etc. + generous vacation time to re-charge so that they can enjoy work on their return.

The WHO studies make it plain that healthy, well-nourished, rested people can work more effectively, be more productive & have better ideas to innovate products, services & internal management practices and oversight procedures.

Dec. 20 2010 11:35 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

The caller/business owner's contention that "a lot of people" are gaming the system to collect Unemployment Insurance might be true in her case, but I don't know if her sample size qualifies for any statistically significance beyond anecdotal evidence.

Dec. 20 2010 11:33 AM
MC from NYC

The lady who claims to be an employer is lying! You cannot get unemployment benefits when you leave a job voluntarily. I have changed jobs in the past and after the new job fell through, I was not able to collect unemployment benefits.

Dec. 20 2010 11:31 AM
Linda from New Jersey

Morning Brian, I have reached the 99 ers point. Worked in Advertising where the primary client was AIG. I am over 50 and have had rcvd NO offers.
I have two sons in College, a mortgage and no health benefits because they are over 18 and I am unemployed. I work as a home health aid, when ever I am offered hours, I worked the census for the summer. But it looks dismal.

Dec. 20 2010 11:30 AM
Diane from Long Island

Two of my kids were on unemployment, one went to school for paramedics the other did "free" interships as a graphic designer to stay on top of his craft. The graphic designer was on unemployment for 8 months and just got a part-time job with a major sports team. Hopefully he will get a full-time position soon with benefits with the organization. My son with the paramedic credentials was on unemployment for 18 months, went to school and is looking for a job. He works delivering pizzas for now to stay active and volunteers until he can find work. Meanwhile, I worked full-time and part-time to help them out with medical coverage. Families need to help each other out and people who are unemployed need to think "outside the box". It's difficult out there. You need a lot of perseverance to survive. Volunteerism is a good option and may lead to unemployment. Good luck everyone.

Dec. 20 2010 11:30 AM
MC from NYC

I have been unemployed for 77 weeks. I am receiving less that 1/3 what my last take-home salary was and the only way my family has been able to get by is by adding money from retirement accounts to my wife's salary. I have been applying for 4 to 6 positions per week, but I am over 55 years of age. I know from speaking with some friends at one place where I applied that a younger person with less experience and education was hired. All this talk about the disincentives of unemployment insurance and Boomers working after retirement age to save Social Security must be based on putting some real teeth into anti-discrimination laws, including age discrimination.

Dec. 20 2010 11:28 AM

T\hey also may not have hired the Teamster because they're afraid he would have organized the nonunion workers.

Dec. 20 2010 11:28 AM
Angela Welch from Brooklyn

The advice on the psychology of keeping at it in the face of long-term unemployment is all well and good, but doesn't change the fact that there just aren't the same number of jobs out there.

And I have a masters degree in clinical psychology! I'm just tired of people who still have jobs telling everyone who is unemployed to keep at it. It's a pretty simple math equation - same number of people, fewer jobs.

Dec. 20 2010 11:28 AM
Reggie from BKNY

During all these conversations about unemployment insurance, why is there never a mention that its "insurance". As a worker you pay taxes and your employer pays into the fund its not as if this money magically appears in the budget.

Dec. 20 2010 11:27 AM
joep from Jersey

Alex DeCroce = Scrooge 2010

what a bonehead

Dec. 20 2010 11:25 AM
Vernon from Long Island

The current maximum for UI is 93 weeks in NY.

Dec. 20 2010 11:23 AM
Angela Welch from Brooklyn

The emergency extension just passed by Congress does not extend benefits past 99 weeks. And in New York, the limit is 93 weeks because according to the stats, our unemployment fell below 8.5%.

Those of us off the rolls (past the 99/93 weeks) aren't even included in the number of unemployed as they have no way to track us.

Convenient, isn't it?

Dec. 20 2010 11:22 AM
Benny from LES

I took a job where I am under-employed just to make a little more than the $405 max NYers are allowed to get. Unemployment is no joke. For those of us coming of age during this period it is really stressful and discouraging our future is bleak and we will be older without experience when things do turn around. Its extremely trying.

Dec. 20 2010 11:20 AM
David from Nassau County,

Oh my! My 99 weeks ran out 6 months ago. Just lost a job I thought I had aced to a 28-year-old who I had mentored in my last job. I could be his father. I rely on savings and am relatively OK now. But have to lay out $$ for health insurance, have no dental insurance and have to pay maintenance, car costs, etc. I need a fulltime gig today! Just wish the environment were better.

Dec. 20 2010 11:20 AM
Mark Kalan from Valley Cottage, NY

I've been out of work for over 5 years! AND I NEVER COLLECTED UNEMPLOYMENT! I used to own a business so i didn't qualify. Basically i get pissed off/depressed/despondent - then I work on my personal projects. Hopefully one will pan out.

Dec. 20 2010 11:20 AM
Mike from NYC

Brian, YOU ARE WRONG! Unemployment benefits are NOT extended past the 99 weeks total and 93 week available in New York: Here is the explanation from the NY UI web page:

"The UI Extension Bill was passed by Congress and signed by the President, extending additional unemployment benefits through January 1, 2012. Claimants who have had benefits held up pending the passage of the extension bill will receive these benefits by Thursday December 23rd. The new extension does not add any weeks beyond the 93 weeks currently available. Please continue to claim weekly benefits in the usual manner, unless you receive instructions to file a new claim."

Dec. 20 2010 11:18 AM
greg from nyc

you are not correct about the unemployment extensions,
MAXIMUM weeks to receive a check in NY is currently 93, and that is not being increased, the time frame to be eligible has been changed and extended,
NOT the total number of checks..

Dec. 20 2010 11:16 AM

How about, instead of giving people money to look for jobs that clearly aren't out there anymore, we retrain and/or relocate them for jobs that are?

Dec. 20 2010 11:16 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Brian -

Dear god get your story straigh - 99 weeks is all there is, not three years! Why are you spreading this republican propaganda?!? Nobody gets more than 99 weeks, ever. You would have to get another job, make at least $2000.00 and then start another claim in which case your payment would be based on the $2000.00 you made if you were trying to "game the system", in which case your benefit would be less then $75 under NY law. Nobody is pulling down anywhere near a paycheck for three years - even if they are "gaming" the system - but thanks for getting THE WONG INFORMATION out on the airwaves, that's waht I would expect of a "journalist".

Dec. 20 2010 11:16 AM
pordy from Madison, NJ

Once again Dan Ariely shows his genius. Check out his TED lectures for a flavor (and his blog and books).

Dec. 20 2010 11:13 AM

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