Blocking Unemployment Benefits Hurts Job Seekers

Lesley Pink worries about paying her rent while searching for a job without unemployment benefits.
Thursday morning the labor department reported 472,000 Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, 13,000 more than the week before. All told, nearly 15 million Americas are without work, or 9.7 percent of the workforce.

If you want to know what it feels like to be out of work just ask Lesley Pink.

"It is a very painful thing to be unemployed," says Pink. "It's very humiliating and it's very humbling."

In January she was laid off from her job in a New York law firm. She's been constantly looking for work. Her $420 weekly unemployment check is the only way she can pay her rent. The checks end this month and she is angry that Congress did not extend her benefits, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

"I've been paying taxes. I've helped the banks bail out and I figure now I need help. Why should I be overlooked?" she says.

Late last year the federal government extended unemployment payments from the standard 26 weeks to 99 weeks. But worried about cost, Republicans in Congress are blocking efforts to keep that extension in place.

So by the end of July 3.2 million people will no longer be getting an unemployment check.

At a packed unemployment office in Glendale, Calif., Thursday, Dominic Lucas worried about how he'll support his son once his benefits end.

"Your hands are tied behind your back and someone is threatening to shoot you," he says. "That's how it feels."

The larger problem is that consumer spending is needed for the economy to recover. Now millions of Americans are losing their unemployment checks and their buying power. Some economists fear that could lead to a double dip recession.

"We're hearing from people that are saying how am I supposed to look for a job if I don't even have money to put gas in my car?" says Andrew Stettner, the deputy director of the National Employment Law Project.

And finding work is daunting. There are five unemployed workers for every one job opening. In Pawtucket, R.I., nursing assistant Michelle Populus has been out of work for almost two years.

"I desperately need a job. I really do," says Populus. "I know in eight weeks I'm screwed."

While those in Congress take a break from their jobs for the holiday, millions of Americans desperately wish they simply had some work to do.