It could be a frightening start to the new year for some 2 million unemployed workers who stand to lose their jobless benefits by the end of December.
Unless Congress extends emergency unemployment benefits set to expire, workers who've been out of work six months or more - and rely on the federal emergency program because they've exhausted their state's jobless benefit - could see their unemployment checks cut off.
According to the latest federal unemployment report
, job seekers age 55-plus were out of work an average of 57.7 weeks. But what a difference for younger folks: they were jobless for an average 37.8 weeks.
Though the economy has been improving slowly, people are still having trouble finding work because employers have been reluctant to hire. If the federal emergency benefits program is not renewed, another 1 million jobless workers could see their checks cut off by next April, according to The Washington Post
Economists worry that could hurt the economy because millions of people will pull back on spending that drives economic growth.
Federal emergency jobless benefits, which supplemented state benefits for as much as 99 weeks for those who still hadn't landed a job, was put into place during the recession as employers shed millions of jobs.
Whether the program will be extended is anyone's guess. Critics say the extensions have discouraged job seekers from looking for work. Supporters say the benefits have kept families afloat and also stimulated the economy through spending.