Feels like we are all discussing what pieces of the Reconciliation Bill can be cut. But, especially after last Friday's job report, Congress should be looking for ways to put UI back in. Me at @NiskanenCenter: niskanencenter.org/congress-shoul…
With the enhanced UI ending last month, a lot of people were hoping that we'd see a big jump in September's employment numbers. We didn't.
Between this and the evidence that accumulated over the summer, it's getting hard to argue that the enhanced UI benefits were the main problem holding the job market back.
Those enhancements were always intended to be temporary. But the pandemic has shown some of the weaknesses of our current UI system that suggest we need long-term reforms.
@SecYellen and @SecMartyWalsh argued for this in an August letter to Congress: home.treasury.gov/system/files/1… Image
However, UI reform wasn't included in the first draft of the Build Back Better text released last month. Now is a good time to put it back in.
Given the tight budget constraints imposed on reconciliation process, we might not be extend the enhanced benefits further.

But there's a lot Congress can do to increase the functioning of UI, both in the short term and in the long term.
1.) We should help states do major overhaul of the computer systems used to verify and process UI.
This was a huge problem at the beginning of the pandemic.

50 year old code couldn't effectively deliver benefits to people, nor could it be modified easily (for example, to set wage replacement to 100%).
And some states have systems that appear to have been deliberately designed to malfunction: politico.com/states/florida…
2.) We should reform the eligibility rules
One of the major successes of the CARES Act was the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provided UI benefits to people who would normally be ineligible.
This includes folks who are self employed, gig workers, and people with limited work history.
This is a growing population of folks who can't access UI under normal conditions. That makes it harder for people to start new businesses, or work freelance jobs.

We want that to be an option for folks!
@MichaelBennet and @RonWyden have proposed a permanent $250 week "job seeker's allowance" for people who do not qualify for regular UI bennet.senate.gov/public/index.c…
A change like this helps fill in some of the gaps of the current UI program.
3.) Finally, we should try to standardize UI replacement rates across states
As I pointed out last year, states do not just differ on the generosity of their UI programs, but they calculate UI benefits in wildly different ways.
This complexity made it hard for federal legislators to adjust generosity during the pandemic, and just makes UI benefits hard to understand in general. People can't say with much reliability how much their UI payments will be.
We should look for ways to standardize the way states calculate benefits, even while allowing some variance in replacement rates.
There's a lot more that could be done - I think of the three as "minimum viable product" for UI reform. It's the bare minimum for having an effective UI program for the 21st century.

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More from @besttrousers

14 Oct
Yeah - I think this is the most important point.
We're used to thinking about unemployment primarily with respect to business cycle/involuntary employment.
But this is point at something that is pretty different. Basically that there are some people at the margin where a small change in their incentives will drive them into or out of the labor force.
Read 8 tweets
8 Oct
Quick pause in the jobs day discourse! Yesterday, a paper from the Becker Friedman Institute came out, with new estimated effects of the CTC on employment (🔼) and poverty (🔽). I've got a response at @niskanencenter here: niskanencenter.org/reevaluating-t…
First - this isn't a methodological critique. See for that, and I'm sure other folks are looking at the paper now.

But how should we interpret the findings as given?
1.) The paper reinforces one important claim we've made before - that very few people will stop working because of the money they get from the CTC (what economists' call the "income effect".)
Read 15 tweets
4 Oct
@EconHembre Yeah - I think the majority of critiques can also be applied the EITC.
@EconHembre A plausible defense of the EITC is something like:

1.) Because EITC is implemented through the tax code, the additional administrative burdens are smaller. 2.) EITC is possibly a bit more legible to recipients.
@EconHembre You could also point to the existence of VITA. Not sure if that ways for (there's lots of support to file for EITC) or against (we need a whole program to help people receive EITC!).
Read 4 tweets
28 Sep
Echoes many of the points @PeteTheCitizen has raised about work requirements: petergermanis.com/wp-content/upl…
Basically, a lot of ideas sound good at a surface level, but the actually administrative infrastructure to deliver them might completely change how they are actually delivered.
Read 4 tweets
24 Sep
"Remember the Return-to-Work bonuses that states announced to great fanfare last spring?

In most states, very few people have actually managed to get the bonus.

I've been curious about this for a while- thanks to @ArthurDelaneyHP and @taragolshan for tracking the data down!
In 5/6 of the states, the number of people who got bonuses over the summer is about 1/20 the number of people who left unemployment insurance.

4,269 people received the bonus, while UI continuing claims dropped by 79,055.
Read 8 tweets
22 Sep
Lots of discussion about the role of objectivity in research, jumping off of @Lauren_Farre11's blog post.

I think these conversations can often benefit from specific examples.
Here's one: an @ideas42 blog post from my former colleague Nuha Saho about how his experience as a NYCHA resident gave him a lot of knowledge that aided the design of our RCT: ideas42.org/blog/street-sm…
This is just a nice example of the tensions that are often in play here. When we were designing the posters, we initially just did a mail merge with the administrative data to get the name for each house.

But no one actually uses the "official" name for those complexes.
Read 6 tweets

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