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Improved jobless numbers spur reduced long-term unemployment benefits

July 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
New numbers out Thursday show California's jobless rate dipped again, with more people leaving unemployment lines. But for some, it's not good news. The new numbers mean a change in the formula for unemployment benefits. The number of weeks the unemployed can receive benefits has been cut by a third.

Many long-term unemployed people are stunned. At the height of the recession, the maximum benefit people out of work could get was 99 weeks. That has since been cut to 73 weeks, and now, with claims starting the week of August 11, the most anyone can get is 63 weeks.

Ten weeks less is actually a result of a formula set by the feds. The three-month average must stay above 9 percent in order for Washington to keep funding extended benefits called Tier 4.

New numbers out Thursday show California's jobless rate for June fell to 8.5 percent. The month before, it was slightly higher, at 8.6 percent. And in April it was at 9 percent.

The decline is attributed to a recovering California economy, where more people are working and spending.

"Yes, it's all good news," said Loree Levy, California Employment Development Dept. "However there are still people who've been unemployed for a long time and still trying to find that next job."

Many of the long-term unemployed don't know what to do now. Things are still bad for them.

How much of a hardship would 10 fewer weeks be?

"It'd probably kill me," said Steven Stoneking, and unemployed stockroom clerk. "Probably get on welfare, get some food stamps rolling, stuff like that."

"My kids, to see me this way," said unemployed accountant Mary Lou Hodge. "'Mom, why don't you just work at McDonald's, because I work there?' I said, 'Sweetie, it's hard. I can't do that.'"

All extensions -- that is, anything after 26 weeks -- expire at the end of the year, unless Congress intervenes.


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