Long-term joblessness and unemployment insurance claims have been a hot topic as of late, as Congress debates potential measures to alter benefits and relieve some of the burden placed on states and businesses. Any proposal would seek to reduce some of the financial costs associated with this crucial assistance.

Recently, however, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims reached 320,000 for the week ending March 15, an uptick of 5,000 from the prior week’s number of 315,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, the four-week moving average actually declined to only 327,000, down 3,500 week-over-week. The insured unemployment rate didn’t change over that time either, stuck at 2.2 percent nationwide for the week ending March 8.

According to the Department of Labor, the states with the highest insured unemployment rates at the beginning of March were Alaska at 5.5 percent, New Jersey at 4.0 percent and Rhode Island at 4.0 percent. On the other hand, the states that reported the largest gains in initial claims for the week ending March 8 were Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, at 1,961, 982 and 830, respectively. The state with the biggest decrease in unadjusted initial claims during that time was New York, with 17,548 fewer claims reported. This is likely due to a more stable transportation, warehousing, educational services, and food services industries.

States could encounter trouble with UI changes
Given the current problems with a lack of long-term unemployment insurance for out-of-work Americans, Congress has been debating potential changes that would alleviate some of these problems. This would also impact businesses, as proposed bills could shift payment methods for taxes and other expenses.

However, Mark Henry, president of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, believes that any measures from Congress could cause difficulties for some states. Recently, Henry sent a letter and fact sheet to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.

In those documents, he outlined several common problems on the state level. For example, many agencies have outdated computer systems not capable of changing quickly alongside any new bill from Congress. In addition, Henry feels that there isn’t enough clarity about how to pay for some administrative aspects if federal funding isn’t made available.

Overall, the federal government has to work closely with state agencies and local businesses to best implement any effective unemployment insurance reforms.


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