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The 10 States That Could Be The Hardest Hit By A Lapse In Unemployment Benefits: 24/7 Wall Street

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By 24/7 Wall Street: More than 2 million people receiving unemployment will lose coverage in December if Congress does not extend their benefits. In a report published in November, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) concluded that certain federal unemployment benefits "will still be available in 10 states. ... [However], in all other states unemployed workers who exhaust their 26 weeks of regular [state] benefits without having found a job will receive no further benefits."

The number will likely increase by several hundred thousand people in the first quarter of next year. To understand the arithmetic behind the 2 million people whose support is at risk, the problem needs to be examined state-by-state. Based on research published by CBPP and the National Employment Law Project and interviews with CBPP's Chief Economist Chad Stone and NELP policy analyst Rebecca Dixon, 24/7 Wall St. has examined unemployment insurance programs for each state and the potential losses to their residents should federal benefits run out.

Unemployment insurance is the government's primary means of providing l help to people without jobs. States finance their own "Regular Program," providing unemployment insurance benefits to residents for up to 26 weeks, which is typically based on a person's earnings over a year.

Federal unemployment extensions, triggered after state coverage is exhausted, are provided through two programs, Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and extended benefits. The first to be triggered, EUC , gives up to 53 weeks of assistance based on the state's unemployment rate. Extended benefits, which further supplements coverage after emergency compensation is exhausted, provides up to 20 weeks.

Although the extended benefits program is usually split 50/50 between the state and the federal governments, The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 gave states the option to have the program financed entirely by the federal government. Twenty-seven states took advantage of this offer. This means that when federal funding ends, the extended benefits program in those states ends.

Another 10 states, including the seven on our list, elected to enact permanent extended benefits programs that are not dependent upon federal funding to be triggered. As a result, these states can continue to cover up to 20 weeks of additional unemployment benefits.

What sets the Great Recession apart from other economic downturns is the huge numbers of unemployed and the length of time they are out of work. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently commented that "This is very unusual and very worrisome because people who are out of work for an extended period, their skills tend to erode." That process of eroding skill along with an abiding hopelessness will only get worse as nearly 4 of 10 out of work Americans have been unemployed for over half a year.

Bernanke also observed what is obvious to most. The economy has grown slowly. Because it is uncertain how long it will continue, job creation has been nearly impossible. The jobless recovery has become no recovery at all. High unemployment weighs down consumer spending and business confidence, creating a vicious cycle which is not easily broken. The number of people who are chronically unemployed will grow and may do so for the next year or more until exports improve, the government embarks on more stimulus spending, or labor becomes so cheap that the hiring process begins again.

The debate about extending support to these 2 million people may not be over next year. The new Congress may decide to allow benefits to continue to lapse become providing additional support to the jobless would add tens of billions of dollars to the federal deficit, which politicians are not keen to do. The counter-argument is that people who are out of work are no longer consumers and become a burden on society.

Here is the 24/7 Wall St analysis of the two million person problem, focused on the ten states which account for over 70% of the total, and seven states where no benefits will run out this year. "All politics is local," the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill said. It appears that is the case for the long-term unemployment issue as well.

10) Indiana

Unemployment: 9.9%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 66,800
No. of weeks (other unemployed residents may have): 26
Total population: 6,423,113

Indiana's unemployment rate has remained constant over the last year, hovering around 10%. However, according to Valerie Kroeger of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the size of Indiana's labor force and the amount of private sector jobs have both grown. This has led to an overall improvement in the unemployment rate, which lowered to 9.9% in October. Unfortunately for Indiana residents, that still keeps the state above the national average of 9.6%. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

9) Ohio
Unemployment:
No. residents losing insurance in December: 88,500
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 11,542,645

According to outgoing governor Ted Strickland, "Ohio's unemployment rate has fallen for seven consecutive months and Ohio had the fifth fastest-growing economy over the past 12 months, according to the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia. Our forward-looking policies are putting Ohioans back to work, helping business recover from the global recession, and attracting new, growing industries to Ohio." The Governor has not yet commented about the 88,500 people who will lose all unemployment insurance in the coming month. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

8) Georgia
Unemployment: 9.9%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 90,000
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 9,829,211

Georgia's unemployment rate, which stands at 9.9%, has exceeded the national average rate for 37 consecutive months, according to the state's labor department. Furthermore, the number of long-term jobless, defined as those out of work for at least 27 weeks, has increased by 63% from last October to this year. As a result, the state has increased unemployment taxes for about 15 percent of businesses in both 2009 and 2010. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

7) Michigan
Unemployment:12.8%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 91,700
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 9,969,727

Michigan, often the poster child for unemployment, has the second highest unemployment rate in the country at 12.8%. Some are forecasting that the state's economy will recover slowly. Progress has already been seen in cities including Detroit, but Michigan will have more than 90,000 people lose coverage in December. Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm recently urged Congress to pass the federal extension, claiming "In Michigan, we are emerging from these difficult economic times, but we still have many families who continue to weather this storm." (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

6) Florida
Unemployment: 11.9%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 107,500
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 18,537,969

Florida has a high unemployment rate of 11.9% - the third worst in the country - with 1.1 million Floridians out of work. In January, state unemployment taxes will almost triple for most businesses that currently pay the minimum, increasing from around $25 to $70 per employee. Governor-elect Rick Scott has also pledged to create 700,000 new jobs in the state in seven years, although opponents have been highly skeptical of this plan. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

5) Illinois
Unemployment: 9.8%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 127,800
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 12,910,409

Illinois, which has an unemployment rate of just under 10%, has had its unemployment rate drop for seven consecutive months after reaching a high of 12.2% in the beginning of this year. While the rate of 9.8% remains above the national average, it is decreasing rapidly, and may soon be below it. In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley recently initiated four business growth plans, stating "In this tough economic climate, we will work together to enhance commercial growth, support revitalization efforts and develop new employment opportunities." The mayor is retiring this year after 21 years in office. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

4) Texas
Unemployment: 8.1%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 127,900
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 24,782,302

Although the Texas unemployment rate is below the national average of 9.6%, many unemployed residents will be left without any benefits by December 31st due to the state's massive population. However, the state added almost 48,000 jobs this past October and 172,800 in the last year, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

3) Pennsylvania
Unemployment: 8.8%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 133,100
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 12,604,767

Although it has only the sixth-largest population, Pennsylvania has the third-highest number unemployed residents losing benefits this December. Governor Ed Rendell said earlier this month: "We're not talking about welfare; these are insurance benefits for which people have paid all their working lives. And we're talking about providing temporary help for hardworking people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own." If the benefits aren't extended, Pennsylvania may soon have to be talking about welfare for 130,ooo people. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

2) New York
Unemployment: 8.3%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 160,300
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 19,541,453

With over 160,000 unemployed residents facing indigence, New York has become a political hotspot with regards the plight of the unemployed. There have been many protests on behalf of and by the jobless, most of which have called for Congress to extend benefits. Included in those who wish to extend benefits is outgoing Governor David Paterson. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

1) California
Unemployment: 12.4%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 410,700
No. of weeks: 26
Total population: 36,961,664

California has more residents at risk of losing unemployment benefits than 36 other states and Washington D.C. combined. The state has the third-worst unemployment rate in the country - 12.4%. Its rate has been above 10% since 2008, and appears to be recovering more slowly than the national average. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency last year when unemployment had reached a mere 11.2%. The Governor, whose approval rating is in the 20's, will shortly be succeeded by Jerry Brown. (More info at 24/7 Wall Street.)

See the seven states that will see the fewest effects if unemployment benefits aren't extended:


7) Alaska

Unemployment: 7.9%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 0
No. of weeks (unemployed residents may have): 46
Total population: 698,473

Alaska features one of the country's few financially solvent unemployment insurance funds, with a balance of $257 million. Additionally, it is one of three states that have employees contribute to the unemployment fund in addition to employers. As of this November, employees have paid for 27% of benefit costs.

6) Connecticut:
Unemployment: 9.1%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 0
No. of weeks: 46
Total population: 3,518,288

While Connecticut's unemployment is above 9%, the state has enough in its coffers to deal with long-term unemployment better than most. Like the other states on this list, Connecticut residents will not experience a loss of insurance as a result of a 20-week program that will extend benefits for at least an additional 20 weeks. This program will be half-funded by the federal government and half by the state.

5) Kansas

Unemployment: 6.7%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 0
No. of weeks: 39
Total population: 2,818,747

Although Kansas' unemployment rate jumped slightly from September to October, the state's fiscal planning has insured that no unemployed persons will lose their benefits this December. The unemployment rate is currently 6.7%, up from last month's 6.6%, but down from last year's 6.8%.

4) Minnesota
Unemployment: 7.1%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 0
No. of weeks: 39
Total population: 5,266,214

Minnesota's unemployment, which was at the national average of 8.5% in 2008, is now well below the current average of 9.6, with only 7.1% unemployed. Minnesotans are still at risk, however, as additional benefits provided by the state will only extend 13 additional weeks.

3) New Jersey

Unemployment: 9.2%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 0
Number of weeks: 46
Total population: 8,707,739

Since the recession began, approximately 120,000 New Jersey residents have exhausted all of their insurance, leaving them with no government-sponsored jobless benefits. Like all of the states, New Jersey's roughly 400,000 existing claimants will see their benefits terms cut short unless Congress passes an extension to extend them. According to Kevin Smith, a state labor department spokesperson, while most of the current claimants will be able to collect a minimum of 20 more weeks, new claimants will receive 26 weeks under the state's unemployment program. Financing the 20 weeks for residents all receiving benefits will be shared by the state and federal government.

2) North Carolina
Unemployment: 9.6%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 0
Number of weeks: 46
Total population: 9,380,884

North Carolina was one of 24/7 Wall St.'s ten states with consistently the worst unemployment rate for the first six months of this year. Since then, it has succeeded in slightly lowering its rate, which is now in the bottom third.

1) Washington

Unemployment: 9.1%
No. residents losing insurance in December: 0
Number of weeks:46
Total population: 6,664,195

Although Washington is one of only a few states where the residents will not lose coverage in December, that does not mean that they aren't without problems. According to the AP, a huge computer programming project has been underway to address the termination of federal emergency benefits. While it was scheduled to end over Thanksgiving weekend, it lasted through Tuesday, November 29th. This delayed processing the state's weekly unemployment claims for two days.

(By 24/7 Wall Street's Ashley Allen, Michael Sauter, Charles Stockdale, and Douglas A. McIntyre)

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