A plan to reform the Unemployment Insurance system in the United States

Reform UI


The unemployment insurance (UI) system has played an important role in delivering relief during the current pandemic.

At the same time, this experience has highlighted the important challenges facing the UI system due to poor and underfunded administrative capacities, too few unemployed workers qualifying for UI benefits, inadequate levels of regular UI benefits, lack of effective triggers to tie benefit duration to economic conditions, and meager utilization of work sharing programs. In this proposal, I suggest remedies for each of these problems, and argue that these remedies are best achieved through converting the UI system to a fully federal program.


  • Acknowledgements and disclosures

    I would like to thank Wendy Edelberg, Kristen Broady, Lauren Bauer, Jesse Rothstein, Suresh Naidu, Ethan Kaplan, and participants of the Author’s Conference for their feedback on this paper. Ihsaan Bassier provided excellent research assistance. I thank Alison Hope for her diligent copy edit, and any errors that remain are mine. I thank Stephanie Lu and Sara Estep for their research support. Lastly, I would like to thank Jeanine Rees for her help with the graphic design and layout of this document.