The Business Times of Edmond

September 2012 Business Times

Edmond Sun, Business Times

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business matters Unemployment benefits tapering off by year-end By Van Mitchell Special to The Business Times S ome Oklahomans will be seeing changes to their unemployment benefi ts starting in September, according to the Oklahoma Em- ployment Security Commission. And if Congress doesn't take action to reaffi rm the federal unemployment pro- gram, those benefi ts will run out early next year. John Carpenter, public information offi cer for the Oklahoma Employment Se- curity Commission, said beginning Sept. 3, the max- imum number of weeks an unemployment benefi t re- cipient can collect on an Emergency Unemployment Compensation Tier 1 claim will drop to 14 weeks from 20 weeks. "When this provision takes effect there will only be 18 weeks until the end of the year when all pay- ments will stop on those benefi ts unless they are re-authorized," Carpen- ter said. "We previously of- fered three tiers, but two of those triggered off so Tier 1 is the only one available." Unemployment claimants are fi rst eligible for up to 26 weeks of regular state un- employment benefi ts from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. When these regu- lar benefi ts are exhausted, claimants can receive a round of emergency benefi ts. Second-tier and third-tier Emergency Unemployment Compensation previously were available, but both triggered off in June. Availability of those benefi ts was tied to a state's average three-month un- employment rate staying at 6 percent or higher. Oklahoma's average has been be- low 6 percent since May. Carpenter said about 2,500 Oklaho- mans apply for those Tier 1 benefi ts each month. He said barring action from Con- gress, payment on all EUC claims will end Jan. 6 after the legislation authoriz- ing those benefi ts expires at year's end. He said the change is part of the Emergency Unemployment Compensa- tion reauthorization legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama last December. The extended benefi ts were estab- lished in July 2008 to help the long-term unemployed as they continued to look for the previous month. The national unem- ployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent for the period. The state's seasonally adjusted unem- ployment rate was down 1.3 percentage points when compared to July 2011. Carpenter said unemployment rates for Oklahoma County as of June 2012 were 5.2 percent compared to 6.3 per- cent in June 2011. In comparison, the unemployment rate for Tulsa County in June 2012 was 5.5 percent compared to 6.9 percent in June 2011. "Traditionally our unemployment rate is below the national average," Carpenter said. "That is one thing that worked in our favor over this recession. When un- employment rates shot up ours started out a lot lower than the national rate. It has to do with the mix of industries that we have here in the state and the demo- graphics of our workforce." The OESC is Oklahoma's state workforce agency. It pro- vides unemployment compen- sation to support unemployed workers and their communi- ties; matches jobs and work- ers to benefi t local labor mar- kets and prepares a skilled workforce to meet employers' needs. Carpenter said in an effort to help job seekers fi nd jobs, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission will have its Semi-Annual Fall Job Fair on Sept. 7 at the Brick- town Coca Cola Event Center in downtown Oklahoma City from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is the 32nd Semi An- work in the wake of the national reces- sion. "They had to fi ght harder and harder to get it reauthorized each time it has come back around," Carpenter said. "This be- ing an election year nothing will get done until after the election. I don't know if they are thinking about reauthorizing this or not." According to the OESC website, Okla- homa's seasonally adjusted unemploy- ment rate rose to 4.9 percent in July, an increase of 0.2 percentage points over The Business Times of Edmond, September 2012 nual Job Fair sponsored by OESC and Workforce Okla- homa and represents one of the largest job fairs in Okla- homa each year with many companies and organizations participating. Job seekers will fi nd employers from many different sec- tors of business — including both the private sector and government sector — at the job fair. The job fair is free for job seekers. For more information about the job fair, visit Carpenter said the job fair attracts a good number of people each year. "They are seeing a lot of people at the job fairs," Carpenter said. "It is usual- ly pretty packed with people looking for work." 29

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