Long-term unemployment benefits cuts coming

Sequester slashes more than 10 percent

ATLANTA — Thousands of jobless workers statewide will see their federal extended unemployment compensation reduced starting in April.

Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped to 8.6 percent in February, the lowest rate since January 2009.

The state had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.7 percent, of which there are 61,360 residents who receive long-term, federally-funded unemployment benefits in January. The number represents those who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks and have exhausted regular state unemployment insurance.

State Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said their long-term unemployment benefits are being reduced because of the federal sequester. He said regular state-funded unemployment insurance benefits will not be affected.

Butler’s department was directed earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Labor to reduce the long-term benefits by 10.7 percent, effective the week beginning March 31.

The maximum weekly benefit is $330, he said. The average benefit is $260, which is an average cut of $27.82 a week.

The federal government will also reduce the state labor department’s administrative funding grant by roughly $3 million. The grant is used to pay the costs of administering the unemployment insurance program.

Butler said that, while he is sure the federal cuts will negatively impact his department’s operations, it is too soon to know the extent. He said the department plans to notify the jobless workers who will be affected.

However, he said there is positive news in the labor market.

His department is reporting that the state’s 8.7 percent unemployment rate was down six-tenths of a percent year-over-year in January, down from 9.3 percent in 2012. The state lost only 47,700 jobs during the post-holidays transition.

Most of those jobs were seasonal.

“The good news in this report is that we lost the fewest jobs for January since 1987,” said Butler. “And we start the year with 79,600 more jobs in January than we had in the same period a year ago.”

He said the number of long-term unemployed workers also declined by 3,700 to 191,300 in January, its lowest level in 35 months. They make up 45.2 percent of the unemployed in Georgia.