Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

Workers and the laid off brace for Congress to act as deadline looms

Posted by: Dee DePass under Unemployment, Taxes Updated: November 28, 2011 - 11:02 AM

A looming deadline has captured the attention of a nation stressed by high unemployment and an all-too-slow economic recovery.

Temporary payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits are set to expire Dec. 31 unless Congress extends them when it returns from its Thanksgiving break.

Doing nothing means a working U.S. family can expect to pay about $1,000 dollars in extra payroll taxes in 2012. The tax hike would hit Jan. 1. Happy New Year.

Debt watchers insist that Congress needs to hold the line. Extending the measure won't be cheap. It would cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $112 billion, according to IHS Global Insight, Calculated Risk, The Economic Policy Institute and other fiscal observers.

Still, several economists say the cost of extending such tax cuts and jobless benefits may carry a lot of economic bang for the buck at a time when American's financial psyche could use a boost.

U.S. unemployment still stings at 9 percent, meaning that about 14 million Americans remain unemployed, 5.9 million of them have been without work for 27 weeks or longer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Minnesota's jobless rate sits at 6.4 percent, meaning that about 200,000 residents here want to work but can't find jobs. Unemployment benefits have kept many afloat.

The researchers at IHS Global Insight predict that the U.S. gained 125,000 jobs in November, even with the addition of thousands of holiday hires. More job cuts in government and home construction are expected for the month, IHS economists say.

Still, if accurate, November's overall  job forecast would be an improvement over the 80,000 jobs gained in October, but not enough to make a dent in the jobless rate. IHS Global economists predict that the jobless rate will remain stuck at 9 percent.

What will Congress do? It remains to be seen. Only one thing is certain: American workers and those looking for work will be watching.

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