March 26th, 2009

Doomsday Unemployment Scenario.

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Written by: Craig Robinson

unemployment_line_nyc_depressionWell, I guess I didn’t make any friend in the newspaper business yesterday when I wrote about some newspapers’ week-long furlough scheme. I understand that they are in a difficult position; losing a week’s salary would cause a hardship for anybody. However, sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture.

The reason I chose to write about this subject was not necessarily to call out the newspaper industry, but to raise awareness of likely future abuses of the unemployment system. Just yesterday, Curries Manufacturing announced that they will be requiring 210 office workers to take a week-long furlough. That is another 210 potential unemployment claims.

The reaction to my newspaper furlough story and the news about Curries Manufacturing got me thinking about a doomsday unemployment scenario.

What would happen if every business in the state decided to furlough their workers for one week? This is a better option than cutting jobs, right? The Bureau of Labor Statistic says that Iowa’s workforce totals 1,592,100 people. And to keep the math simple, let’s say they all apply for unemployment benefits for their furlough week, and their benefit totals $400 per employee.

That means the Unemployment Trust Fund would take a hit of more than $636 million for just that one week. And, it would all be legal and encouraged by Workforce Development.

Such a scenario would wreak havoc on Workforce Development and would be caused by people who still have their jobs. It is likely that, when the furloughed people go back to their jobs (since they are not really unemployed), the Iowans who are truly relying on the unemployment system just to survive might see their benefits be in jeopardy because of the abuses relating to these week-long furloughs.

I have a question for my newspaper friends who defend taking unemployment benefits while on their furloughs. On your week off are you out there looking for a job like you are required to do?

From the workforce development website:

Everyone is required to make a minimum of two in-person work search contacts each week unless otherwise specified by Iowa Workforce Development. You must actively seek work each week you make a claim for benefits, even if you are working part-time. Your job contacts must be made between Sunday and Saturday of the week you are claiming benefits and must be made through in-person contacts with employers. Your work search must be a reasonable and honest effort to find suitable work and you must be willing to accept a reasonable wage in your area for the job for which you are applying. Telephone contacts for jobs are not acceptable. Repeat or follow-up searches may be made to the same employer after six weeks from the initial contact.

You are required to keep a record of your work search contacts. You need to include the date of the contact, company name, address, phone number, and the name of the person you contacted. It is suggested that you keep this record in the space provided at the end of this guide. You are also required to provide a copy of this information on the Work Search History form, upon request.

If requested you may provide a copy of your Record of Work Search rather than copy the information onto the Work Search History form. Failure to make weekly work searches, keep a record of those work searches, and submit the Work Search History form upon request may result in a denial of benefits already paid, causing an overpayment of benefits you will be required to repay.

Are people who know they are going back to work next week really going to go out there and apply for jobs since they already have one? I doubt it. That means hundreds and thousands of fraudulent unemployment claims could be filed.

Companies like Gannett, Lee Newspapers, and Curries need to look no further than the Iowa Judicial Branch to see a reasonable use of furloughs. Instead of week-long furloughs, they furlough their workers on various Fridays and don’t have more than one furlough day per pay period.

This method of furloughing employees lessens the financial blow to the workers and prevents the abuse of the unemployment system that I outlined above. Quite frankly, I would think this would be a better option for newspapers. They could institute sporadic, rolling furloughs rather than having their employees be gone for an entire week at a time.

In difficult times we need to make sure we don’t create undue burdens on the unemployment system. It seems a little odd for me to encourage businesses that are implementing furloughs, or even thinking about it, to follow government’s lead, but in this case, the government is actually providing a good example for Iowa businesses to follow.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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