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Unemployment Insurance during a Pandemic

Lei Fang (), Jun Nie () and Zoe Xie

No 2020-13, FRB Atlanta Working Paper from Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Abstract: The CARES Act implemented in response to the COVID-19 crisis dramatically increases the generosity of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, triggering concerns about its substantial impact on unemployment. This paper combines a labor market search-matching model with the SIR-type infection dynamics to study the effects of CARES UI on both unemployment and infection. More generous UI policies create work disincentives and lead to higher unemployment, but they also reduce infection and save lives. Economic shutdown policies further amplify these effects of UI policies. Quantitatively, the CARES UI policies raise unemployment by an average of 3.7 percentage points over April to December 2020 but also reduce cumulative death by 4.7 percent. Eligibility expansion and the extra $600 increase in benefit level account for more than 90 percent of the total effects, while the 13-week benefit duration extension plays a much smaller role. Overall, UI policies improve the welfare of workers and reduce the welfare of nonworkers, both young and old.

Keywords: COVID-19; CARES Act; unemployment insurance; search and matching (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E24 J64 J65 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 54
Date: 2020-07-31
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dge, nep-ias, nep-lab and nep-mac
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DOI: 10.29338/wp2020-13

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