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Iowa’s improving jobless rate comes with cost for job-seekers

Dave DeWitte, CR Gazette –

The recent improvement in Iowa’s unemployment rate has come with a price for job-seekers — a decrease in extended unemployment benefits from 47 to 34 weeks.

Iowa Workforce Development said the decrease in Extended Unemployment Compensation takes effect Jan. 14 due to the decline in the state’s three-month average unemployment rate to less than 6 percent.

“While Iowa is fortunate to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, it does effect the overall benefit eligibility for the state,” Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert said in prepared remarks. “The change in Iowa’s eligibility will affect approximately 4,200 individual in the first quarter of 2012.”

Jobless Iowans who are declared eligible for unemployment compensation ordinarily qualify for 26 weeks of benefits, Iowa Workforce Development spokeswoman Kerry Koonce said. The extended unemployment is part of a federal program that provided more weeks due to the difficulty of finding work in a high-unemployment economy.

The extended unemployment program in Iowa has three tiers of eligibility. The first carries up to 20 weeks of eligibility, while the second carries 14 weeks and the third carries 13 weeks.

The week ending Jan. 14 will be the last for which claimants can establish eligibility for the third tier of 13 weeks due to the decline in Iowa’s unemployment rate.

About 300 Iowans per week will exhaust their second tier of benefits without eligibility for the third tier after Jan. 14, Iowa Workforce Development reported.

Iowa’s unemployment rate has not been high enough since the recession to provide for a fourth tier of unemployment benefits that extended to 99 weeks.

Individuals already receiving benefits in the third tier of extended unemployment will not be affected by the change. Other claimants will be notified in writing before the expiration of all available benefits, Iowa Workforce Development said.

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