By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer
The start of 2014 is seeing thousands of Ohio residents losing long-term emergency unemployment benefits.
More than 2,000 Summit County residents likely saw their long-term unemployment benefits end Dec. 28, according to estimates from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Statewide, an estimated 40,000 to 42,000 Ohio residents were affected when a new two-year federal government budget agreement ended federal emergency jobless benefits for an estimated 1.3 million people nationwide. The extended emergency benefits program has cost about $225 billion since being enacted in 2008 during the Great Recession.
The program allowed people to receive unemployment payments for up to 99 weeks, or nearly two full years, including typical 26 weeks of state-provided benefits.
“In Ohio, we still have a documented need to retain the extended unemployment benefits program,” said George Zeller, a Cleveland-based economics researcher who studies unemployment claims.
The state estimates that 52,400 Ohio residents had unemployment benefits end in December, with 40,000 to 42,000 losing benefits directly because of the federal budget cuts.
Estimated Northeast Ohio residents losing extended jobless benefits include:
• Cuyahoga County: 5,239;
• Medina County: 517;
• Portage County: 631;
• Stark County: 1,395;
• Summit County: 2,077;
• Wayne County: 273;
(The estimated per-county extended federal benefit cuts are based on reducing “raw” per-county figures across the board by 20 percent. Put another way, the total number of people per county whose unemployment insurance expired in December is about 20 percent higher.)
The federal extended benefits were made available to workers whose regular unemployment insurance benefits expired.
Ohio said its maximum unemployment payments are based on a formula that uses a person’s previous average salary and number of dependents.
For instance, someone who was making $826 a week or more with no dependents would get a maximum weekly payment of $413 under the state’s formula. Someone with three or more dependents who had an average weekly wage of $1,114 or higher would qualify for a maximum weekly payment of $557.
The National Employment Law Project said jobless Ohio residents received an average of $294 a week in extended unemployment compensation from October 2012 through September for a total cost of $692.9 million. The New York City-based organization said its analysis shows that reauthorizing the federal extended benefits would save 6,535 jobs in the state.
Ohio has yet to recover from job losses dating to 2000, never mind the Great Recession, Zeller said. Ohio’s job growth has been weaker than national growth, he said. The latest November employment figures are “alarmingly weak,” he said. Ohio has been recovering, but the pace has been slow and weak, according to Zeller.
The latest November jobs figures showed Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent, down slightly from October, but remained above the national rate of 7 percent. Ohio’s rate a year ago was 6.8 percent.
The state’s nonfarm wage and salary employment fell 12,000 from a revised 5.2 million workers to 5.19 million. There were 427,000 people counted as unemployed in November. The numbers do not include people who have stopped looking for work or who are working part-time but want a full-time job.
“Picking this particular time to end the extended unemployment benefits is very damaging to workers of the entire state of Ohio,” Zeller said. “The huge job losses in Ohio document an urgent need to help Ohio’s laid off workers, especially until such time as Ohio recovers the massive numbers of jobs that our state has previously lost.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.