Saturday, December 21, 2013

If you lose your job you can apply for unemployment compensation. What are the requirements? You might be surprised.

When teaching basic macroeconomics in high school (AP or "regular") one of the topics that seems to generate the most student queries is unemployment (or its flip side employment). Most of the questions center around eligibility.

The Center on Budget Policy and Analysis offers a nice primer on the subject in VERY understandable language  for laymen like myself.

I may write a series of very short blog entries on this topic to explain further some of finer points of the Unemployment Insurance program that I find are misunderstood by many/most students.

First, I will start with eligibility.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Insurance?
To qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, a person must:

(1)  have lost a job through no fault of his or her own;
(2)  be “able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work;” and
(3) have earned at least a certain amount of money during a “base period” prior to becoming unemployed. 

You cannot collect unemployment benefits if you (1) voluntarily quit your job to look for another one, (2) are in the job market for the first time looking for work (high school dropout, high school or college graduate seeking first job), (3) a re-entrant into the workforce (stay at home parent looking for a job after raising kids, retiree looking for another job, formerly incarcerated person looking of job).

However, if you are (1) laid off (2) lost job due to business closing, (3) in some narrow instances on strike, you are entitled to unemployment compensation. You would have been considered to "have lost a job through no fault of" your own.  As an aside, you MAY qualify for benefits if you quit your job because of "harassment", but you would have to make that case individually.

While you are collecting compensation you are required to show you are "actively seeking work".  The burden of proof is quite low. Showing that you filled out an application (in writing or online) or got a business card from a prospective employer is usually sufficient (I know this from being an employer in the past).

Bullet point #3 is the one students seen to ask about the most. Students suggest: "I will get a job then get myself fired the first week file for unemployment compensation!"

Not so fast.  You must have earned a specified minimum amount of income in what is termed a "base period" before you lost your job.

This is generally defined as "the first four of the last five of the last calendar quarters".  In other words you must have earned a minimum amount of money spread out over the previous 12 months.

This required minimum income to qualify varies considerably from State to State.  HERE is a link to a US Dept of Labor document that gives an overview (scroll down to Table 3-3). You can find your State there.

This is certainly not comprehensive, but I hope it gives you a better idea of who is and isn't eligible for unemployment compensation.

NOTE:  Just saw this late today on the St. Louis Fed.  A lesson on unemployment that covers some things I did not cover BUT I covered some things they did not.  They have a few nice "quiz" questions for you to use.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How much would it cost to buy the items in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? See them here and how they have changed over time...

Every year for the past 30 years the bank PNC has compiled the prices of the items contained in the traditional Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas". If you were REALLY going to give these as gifts what would the prices be and how have those prices changed over time. It is a fun way to learn about the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Click on image to make larger or go HERE .

Here is a more detailed analysis of the prices and percentage change from last year and from 1984 when the index was started

Source: PNC

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How do you spell "ELF"? No, that is not right. It is spelled "UPS". See here why. :)

I believe I know who the REAL Elves are.

Here is a graph of UPS package delivery volume since 2002 with the 4 quarter of the year highlighted on the horizontal axis. Notice the obvious jump in volume in the last 3 months of the year---ANY year.

Source:  Your Wealth Effect
Only after looking at this graph for a moment did I come to the conclusion that Santa has A LOT of help this time of year.  It is a Merry Christmas for UPS indeed as a good portion of their revenue comes at this time of year.

With the Photo Shop skills of a former student (Alexei Dukov) I thought I would modify this graph in the spirit of the holiday.
Source: Modified by

"WTF-150"--See the Number 1 selling vehicle by State.

Top Selling Car by State chart
Source: Business Insider

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Map of where "Multiple Jobs Holders" are located in the US. Why do you think the Mid-West has a majority of these workaholics?

This is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  It shows the concentration of people who are considered "Multiple Job Holders". That could be someone with a a full time job and a part time job or 2 full time jobs, or two part time jobs, etc. Some combination there of.

The darker blue the area the higher the percentage of people with multiple jobs.  Notice much of this takes place in the Mid-West. The Farm Belt, for the most part.  The BLS does not breakdown the data to this level (that I could find) but could it be farmers who have to hold down second jobs during the non-harvest time of the growing season?

Just a guess on my part.  What do you think?

Welp, I know where we go wrong with health care costs in the US compared to other countries. We have to stop reaching the age of 55. See here why...

This is a bit dated (2009), however I am going to assume the proportions probably have not changed much.  Something happens with the cost structure of the US health care system (RED line) after people reach the age of 55 that does not happen in some European countries. The cost curve goes vertical.  I inserted an estimate of per person spending on health care in the US in 2009 ($8,400).

It is quite surprising to me that US health care costs are right in line, albeit higher on average, with these European countries right up to age 55. Our average per capita cost is definitely brought up by the marginal cost of each person 55 and beyond.  Seems like we know the where the problem lies.

What are we doing about it?
Source: Forbes

Is the US still a welcomed destination for the worlds migrants? This graph suggests no at first look. It is all how you look at numbers.

The graph below (minus my edits) is making the rounds on various blogs and twitter showing migrants to select countries as a percent of that countries population.

As you can see (by the BLACK bar for 2010) Singapore, Australia, and Canada have larger percentages than the US.  I wondered what those percentages represented in nominal numbers of immigrants so I calculated a rough estimate (had to eyeball the percentages in the graph).  The actual number of human being immigrants is in RED  (in millions) for all other countries than the US.

As you can see, the US absorbs a larger number of REAL LIVE people from abroad.  Far more than any other country individually and just slightly less than ALL THE OTHERS COMBINED.

Source: Business Insider

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