Jobless eligible for nine more weeks of unemployment benefits

By Peninsula Daily News staff
and Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The federal government shutdown that lasted for 16 days in October created a benefit for thousands of jobless workers in Washington state.

By contributing to a rise in joblessness, it helped push Washington's three-month average unemployment rate to 7 percent, which reactivated nine weeks of long-term federally funded emergency unemployment benefits, state officials said this week.

Jobless workers in Washington can currently claim up to 54 weeks of unemployment benefits — 26 weeks paid for by the state and 28 weeks paid by the federal government.

They get a percentage of their previous wages, or anywhere from $143 to $624 weekly.

Starting Sunday, the unemployed will be eligible for 63 weeks of benefits.

The change also affects about 11,000 people who exhausted their extended benefits after Aug. 10 and remain unemployed.

State officials said they're using a combination of emails, robocalls and letters to tell people about the change in benefits, but they also warned that the entire emergency unemployment-compensation program ends Dec. 28, unless Congress approves an extension.

Paid for in tiers

Federal emergency unemployment compensation is paid in a series of four tiers, with tiers 2 through 4 tied to a state's jobless rate.

Its Tier 3 benefits of nine extra weeks were turned off in August as joblessness dropped below 7 percent, but a slowdown in hiring since then has pushed the rate back up.

“It's ironic that the federal shutdown contributed to the rise in our unemployment rate and caused these benefits to be reactivated,” Employment Security Commissioner Dale Peinecke said in a statement.

Washington's unemployment rate rose to 7 percent in August, declined to 6.9 percent in September and reached 7 percent again in October. The U.S. rate was 7.3 percent in October.

Clallam County's unemployment rate climbed from a revised 7.8 percent in September to a preliminary 8.4 percent in October, state officials said.

Jefferson County saw its jobless rate rise from a revised 7.6 percent in September to a preliminary 8.3 percent in October.

Jobless rates, which do not account for those who have left the labor force, have been hovering around 8 percent in both counties since July.

Last modified: December 04. 2013 7:11PM
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