The latest entry in the debate comes from Rand Ghayad, a grad­uate stu­dent atNorth­eastern Uni­ver­sity who has already won atten­tion for his work studying the plight of the long-​​term unemployed.

In an ear­lier paper, Mr. Ghayad and a col­league looked at the well-​​known rela­tion­ship between unem­ploy­ment and job open­ings. Ordi­narily, the two indi­ca­tors move together, in a pre­dictable pat­tern: More job open­ings means less unem­ploy­ment, and vice versa. But recently, the rela­tion­ship has changed: Unem­ploy­ment is higher than it should be given the number of openings.

Mr. Ghayad and his co-​​author found that the change in the rela­tion­ship was driven entirely by the long-​​term unem­ployed. The number of short-​​term job seekers was more or less what econ­o­mists would expect given the number of job post­ings. But there were far more long-​​term unem­ployed than the his­tor­ical rela­tion­ship would pre­dict. One pos­sible expla­na­tion: Extended ben­e­fits were leading job-​​seekers not to look as hard for work.

But in a new paper pub­lished by the Boston Fed, Mr. Ghayad calls that expla­na­tion into ques­tion. He does so by breaking the unem­ployed into two groups: those who lost their jobs, and those who quit vol­un­tarily, are entering the work­force for the first time or are re-​​entering the work­force after time away (to raise a child, for example).

The logic is simple: In gen­eral, only people who lose their jobs qualify for unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits. So if extended ben­e­fits are leading to long-​​term unem­ploy­ment, then the two groups should behave dif­fer­ently. Instead, both groups show more or less the same trend. There are indeed more job-​​losers than there should be based on his­tor­ical rela­tion­ships, but only because there are more unem­ployed people in gen­eral; the rela­tion­ship between job open­ings and unem­ploy­ment shows a sim­ilar shift for both groups.

That’s good news for defenders of unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, but it may be bad news for the economy. In his paper, Mr. Ghayad con­cludes that his research “sug­gests the increase in the unem­ploy­ment rate rel­a­tive to job open­ings will per­sist when unem­ploy­ment ben­efit pro­grams expire.”

Read the article at The Wall Street Journal →