Obama proposes higher unemployment benefits, even as jobless rate declines

Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to put some specifics behind an unusually expansive State of the Union address Tuesday, when he identified unemployment insurance as an area where he hoped he could work with the Republican Congress. “Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security,” Obama said in his address to Congress.

Obama wants to require all states to provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment insurance — creating a new mechanism to trigger 52 weeks of benefits in states with sudden high unemployment. In the past, Congress has voted to authorize the longer benefits when there’s a recession, but the White House says Congress is often too slow to act when a recession hits.

The plan would also create a separate wage insurance program providing up to $10,000 in benefits, expand retraining and career counseling programs, and encourage states to pay to relocate jobless workers or subsidize new jobs.