So, first, the unemployment insurance (UI) bit:
1. UI is not available to just anyone: you only qualify by losing your job in under very specific circumstances.
2. Unemployment insurance is just that: insurance. A typical worker has spent decades paying into it precisely so he or she can collect it when they need it.
3. To receive UI, you can’t “do nothing”. You have to look for work. Every week. And prove it. Every week.
4. UI pays a pittance. A bare survival stipend to keep food on the table. That is all.
5. Contrary to the age-old “welfare queen”-baiting racism and “Poor = Lazy/ Rich = Virtuous” class warfare meme of the Right, the average unemployed worker wants to work. Typically, he or she is out there every fucking day knocking on doors and being told “no”, applying online to companies from which they never hear back, working their ever-fraying network of friends and former colleagues, sending out hundreds of resumes. They fail because…
6. There are no fucking jobs.
7. If you are over 45 there is a terrifyingly high probability that our economy will never produce another substantive job for you again.
From personal experience… yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and YES. Ok., the last yes is not from personal experience as I’m only 30. But I’m hearing from many people over 45 (and even 40) that it seems to be the case.
Also on this topic, check out Megan Cottrell’s excellent series on the 99ers (people who have collected unemployment for the maximum allowable 99 weeks and still have not found work):