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Nine Weeks Of Federal Unemployment Benefits Cut In Washington

Flickr Photo/photologue_np

People on unemployment in this state stand to lose nine weeks of federal support starting in August as the federal government trims support to states with higher employment.

The change will affect about 26,000 people. It means that most people who exhaust state benefits will only be able to collect support for 53 weeks. Before April 2012 they could claim a maximum of 99 weeks.

Federal support is waning because Washington's unemployment rate is running below 7 percent. That was a benchmark for continued support, and the Washington rate is better than the national average of 7.6 percent.

At the same time, more people in Washington are getting jobs and leaving state assistance  before they need to start using  federal unemployment benefits. 

The employment security department says in 2010, half the people who went on unemployment exhausted their state benefits and needed the federal extensions. Now, according to spokeswoman Sheryl Hutchison, "We’re down to 35 percent so it has improved dramatically. It means only about one-third of people who start regular benefits are going on to the extensions. We’re seeing some improvement, and that’s a good sign."

However, the the people who are losing nine weeks of income are the ones who did not get jobs and who ran out of state funds. Hutchison said these workers have not benefited from improvements in the labor market. The Employment Security Department has said consistently that people find it harder to find work the longer they remain unemployed.

Federal assistance to the jobless is expected to end across the nation at the end of the year. If that happens workers will only be eligible for state help, which ends after 26 weeks.

Nationally,NPR's The Two-Way reports that the S&P 500 surpassed 1,700 pointsfor the first time today due to a drop in weekly jobless claims.