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The Labor Department's glad tidings Friday about the uptick in job creation last month might morph into bad news next month for many of the long-term unemployed.

That's because the boost in November hiring, with employers adding 146,000 jobs, might make it more difficult for Democrats to argue in favor of having Congress renew the extension of benefits for people out of work more than six months.

As things stand, four in 10 Americans who receive unemployment insurance will lose their extended benefits if federal aid expires as scheduled on Dec. 29.

If that were to happen, "it would be devastating for these unemployed workers and their families; in many cases, this is the only income they have," says Judy Conti, a lobbyist with National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for low-wage workers. "It's the middle of winter — when people need heat and food and shelter."

But conservatives now have a stronger argument to make when they say the job market is healthy enough to offer opportunities to those who have been out of work a long time. In November, the unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a point to 7.7 percent, the lowest level in four years.

A Cutoff Looms

The future of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed is part of the ongoing budget negotiations in Congress. Lawmakers are trying to sort out a complicated cluster of tax-break expirations and automatic spending cuts. Collectively, those budget problems are commonly called the fiscal cliff.

One of the issues involved in the negotiations is the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Unless Congress reauthorizes it for 2013, more than 2 million long-term unemployed workers will be cut off from federal benefits.


Businesses, Not Consumers, Sour On Economy

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