Boro Jobless Claims Rise, State Adds Fund To Help
By Vladic Ravich
As the State has worked to replenish its unemployment funds, the number of Queens residents on the rolls has continued to accelerate. According to statistics from the State Department of Labor, the October unemployment level – 5.1 percent – was half a percentage point higher than last year. The number for November is 1 percent higher.
The latest figures available are for December 2008, which stood at 6.5 percent, a notable 2 point increase from the year before. It is the highest rate for the month since 2003, and the upward trend seems to be accelerating. The current level remains far below the eye-popping 10.5 percent from 1992, the highest in the last two decades.
The increasing number of Queens residents who rely on their unemployment checks will be relieved to know the State has “guaranteed the availability of unemployment benefits to 420,000 out-of-work New Yorkers” statewide, according to the governor’s office.
The action was necessary to “increase the appropriation authority in the budget,” according to Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesperson for the State Budget Division. A drastic rise in unemployment claims – more than 140 percent since last year statewide – meant the State was not able to tap into sufficient federal funds to cover the new claims.
This recent move ensures that the checks will continue uninterrupted. According to the governor’s office, “it allows New York to access funding already in place to pay [Unemployment Insurance] claims, and would not impact the amount that employers pay into the Trust Fund, change weekly benefit levels, or alter the State budget deficit.”
“I am grateful that the Legislature joined me in taking quick action to help ensure that New Yorkers receive the assistance they need to weather this unprecedented economic storm,” said Gov. David Paterson. “These benefits are only part of the solution. While providing access to unemployment benefits is absolutely critical in this time of economic crisis, what we really need is to get people back to work, and that will require swift action on an aggressive federal economic recovery package.”
Current-year spending on unemployment benefits statewide is projected to total $4.6 billion, according to the state Labor Department. “The dramatic surge in [Unemployment Insurance] spending is due both to the current economic crisis, as well as federal legislation extending unemployment benefit eligibility by 33 weeks, from 26 weeks to 59 weeks for new claimants who begin receiving payments before March 31, 2009.”
New York State’s maximum weekly benefit is $405, while the current average weekly benefit is $309.