Years after the Great Recession, the U.S. economy is still struggling.

The unemployment rate has been stubbornly high, although it has crept in the right direction after hitting a peak of 10 percent in October 2009.

The most recent figures were released last week, showing the national rate dropped three-tenths of a point in November, to 7.0 percent.

Pennsylvania's rate was slightly higher, at 7.3 percent, while the York-Hanover rate dropped to 6.9 percent - the lowest since February 2009.

Still, all of these figures are well below the 4 percent to 6 percent most economists say signal a healthy economy.

This was no ordinary recession, which is why in 2008 Congress stepped in to extend federal unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks for those still struggling to find work.

Although things are by no means back to normal, federal lawmakers allowed that lifeline to expire at the end of the year.

As a result, 1 .3 million people lost their long-term unemployment benefits, and another 3.5 million who would have been eligible in 2014 will be denied the aid.

The effort was led by Republicans, whose main argument seems to be these Americans won't fly to new jobs unless they're pushed out of the nest.

It's a cynical view and simply wrong.

Recipients are required to look for work in order to receive the benefits, which on average amount to $1,200.

What they're finding, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released last month, is there are three job seekers for every opening.

The fact is long-term unemployment still is as high as it has ever been since World War II.

Not only do these benefits help people through rough times - to feed, shelter and clothe themselves and their families - they also help the nation's economic recovery.

Take away millions of Americans' lifelines, and they'll have less to spend, meaning less incentive for employers to hire.

The cycle will continue; the misery will simply be much greater.

Members of Congress are beginning to see the error of their ways, with the Senate Thursday debating an extension of long-term unemployment benefits for between three months and a year.

Although Democrats and Republicans continue to haggle over whether to make offsetting budgets cuts - and where - to pay for the extension, both sides sound optimistic a deal can be reached.

The House, where common-sense ideas tend to die, is another matter.

We can only hope members of that chamber follow suit - if not out of compassion for fellow Americans in a time of need, then for the good of the country.