By Joe Mathieu, WBZ NewsRadio 1030

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a big nail biter for millions of unemployed Americans just in time for the holidays.

They could lose their jobless benefits.

That is if Congress fails to extend a program for the long-term unemployed, which is set to expire at the end of this month.

The bad news would come in phases.

The Washington Post’s Wonkbook reports that some 1.3 million Americans would lose their unemployment insurance immediately. Before the end of the year. And more people would be dropped in the New Year, sending the number of people without benefits above 2 million.

This all goes back to the recession when Congress expanded the benefits program for people out of work for at least six months. That was 2008.

And there are new concerns about what happens to those people and the economy if this program does expire.

The initial impact would be obvious. People wouldn’t be able to pay bills, hurting themselves and the economy.

But the chief economist at JP Morgan takes it even further, predicting that many of those 1.3 million people would simply give up looking for work once these benefits expire.

And when people stop looking for work, they are no longer counted by the Labor Department as part of the workforce. And not reflected in the nation’s unemployment rate – meaning the job market will appear stronger even as it gets weaker.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joemathieuwbz



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