State ends extended jobless benefits as unemployment rate falls

The state says it will stop paying extended unemployment benefits because the jobless rate has declined, ending a third program of enhanced or extended financial aid for Alaskans jobless during the pandemic.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced the state’s extended benefits period will end Dec. 11, Anchorage television station KTUU reported.

The extension — which has been in place since May 2020 — provided Alaskans the opportunity for additional weeks of unemployment benefits, which range from $56 to $370 a week depending on past earnings.

The state in June stopped its participation in a federally funded program that paid $300 a week in additional financial aid to jobless Alaskans, above the state’s benefits formula.

And in September, another federally funded program expired, which had provided money for states to pay unemployment benefits to previously ineligible self-employed individuals.

In announcing the state’s decision in May to withdraw from the federal program of expanded benefits, Alaska Department of Labor Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter said the state’s economy was showing signs of recovery, and there are employers trying to fill jobs. “Therefore, it is time for Alaskans who are able and available to go to work to do so.”

The state’s decision to end in December the extended pandemic aid benefits was based on Alaska’s unemployment rate. For the extended benefits to continue, a state’s unemployment rate has to be at least 6.5% for a three-month period. Alaska’s unemployment rate for October was 6.1%, the Labor Department reported.

“We are now in a situation where, our total unemployment rate has reduced to a level that extended benefits will be triggering off,” said Patsy Westcott, director of the Division of Employment and Training Services.

Alaska’s unemployment rate is now similar to what it was before the pandemic, said Nolan Klouda, executive director of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Center for Economic Development.

“We have a market right now that is hiring fast, that is starved for workers, and so those who are seeking jobs have a lot of options and are seeing even some wage growth in what’s available out there,” Klouda said.

 

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