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Published: Saturday, 12/28/2013 - Updated: 7 months ago

3,200 jobless in area lose aid this weekend

Most recipients affected by end of extended benefits in Lucas Co.

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The expiration of extended federal unemployment benefits this weekend will cut off cash assistance to more than 3,200 people in metro Toledo who have been jobless for more than six months.

Most live in Lucas County. The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services said Friday that the end of the federal program will affect an estimated 2,300 people in Lucas County. That makes up about 13 percent of the 16,900 people in Lucas County who are unemployed, according to the most recent estimates out Friday.

Established in 2008, the federal benefits were meant to help Americans who lost their jobs during the Great Recession and hadn’t found employment by the time their state jobless benefits expired. In most states, including Ohio, unemployment benefits last 26 weeks.

At one time, the federal extension provided benefits for up to a total of 99 weeks, provided recipients were actively searching for work. Most recently in Ohio, unemployed workers were eligible for up to 63 weeks.

Congress extended the benefits several times, but has allowed them to expire as part of the recent budget deal.

Officials with Ohio’s Jobs and Family Services say 52,000 Ohioans’ benefits will expire this month, though that tally includes some 10,000 or more residents who were likely to get their last week regardless of the expiration of federal benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the expiring benefits will affect more than 1.3 million people nationwide.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez held a conference call Friday with reporters, pushing a message that now isn’t the right time to cut off benefits.

“When you’re in a hole, rule No. 1 is stop digging,” he said.

Mr. Perez said long-term unemployment remains at 2.6 percent. The average rate over the 10 years prior to the recession was 1 percent, he said.

“Not only do those people need support, but supporting them is good for the economy as well,” Mr. Perez said.

Officials with the Department of Labor estimate failure to extend the benefits could cost the U.S. economy 240,000 jobs next year. They say it also disincentivizes the long-term unemployed to continue looking for work, as those people must look for work in order to collect benefits.

“The people we talk to week in and week out, they’ve never looked harder for work,” Mr. Perez said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending the benefits through the end of 2014 would cost about $19.1 billion.

Ohio’s statewide unemployment rate fell in November to 7.4 percent from 7.5 percent in October.

Estimates for the area’s local counties showed mixed results.

At 8 percent, there was no change in Lucas County from October to November. The unemployment rate in the city of Toledo fell one-tenth of a percentage point from October to 8.6 percent in November.

However, both Lucas County and Toledo rates remain higher than in November, 2012, when the state said Lucas County’s rate was 7.2 percent and Toledo’s was 7.8 percent.

Because the county and city unemployment statistics are not seasonally adjusted, fluctuations from month to month aren't uncommon. Economists say a better way to look at them is year over year.

Fulton County’s November rate was 7.2 percent, down from 7.3 percent in October. Fulton County was at 6.9 percent in November, 2012.

Wood County’s rate was up a tick to 6.9 percent in November from 6.8 percent in October. Perhaps more importantly, the rate was up more than full point from the same period last year, when the November rate was 5.7 percent.

Ottawa County’s rate jumped considerably, from 8.1 percent in October to 11.1 percent in November. Because of that county’s reliance on summer tourism, an increase isn’t unexpected. However, the November rate this year is higher than the rate last November, which was 9.2 percent.

State officials within JFS say Ohio got off to a fast start with the recovery but things have slowed in recent months. Still, they say there’s definitely a recovery.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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