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Utah’s low unemployment rate triggers benefits cut

First Published May 25 2012 08:29 am • Last Updated May 25 2012 06:57 pm

Utahns who are struggling to find a job are about to find out that there is a downside to the state’s low unemployment rate.

The U.S. Department of Labor has notified the state that because Utah’s three-month average unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent, its residents will no longer be eligible to collect 34 weeks of federal jobless benefits.

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Instead, the maximum number of weeks will be cut to 20 after June 23. 2012.

People who lose their jobs through no fault of their own are eligible for 26 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits. But because the economic downturn was so severe and prolonged, Congress extended the benefit period, creating different tiers of assistance that were dependent upon the unemployment rate among the different states.

In some hard-hit states, there were four tiers that added up to 73 additional weeks of benefits.

Utah, with its relatively low unemployment rate, qualified initially for three tiers of federal assistance. And that allowed unemployed Utahns to collect a maximum of 47 weeks of additional federal unemployment benefits once their state benefits ran out. However, those 47 weeks of federal benefits were subsequently reduced to 34 weeks as Utah’s unemployment rate trended downward.

And now those federal benefits are about be reduced once again — to 20 weeks.

Bill Starks, the unemployment insurance director at the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said in a statement announing the reduction the federal program paid approximately $43 million to unemployed Utah workers during the past three months.

To get more information, or to file a claim, visit http://Jobs.Utah.Gov.

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