Long Island’s unemployment rate has dropped last month to 5.1% from a year ago at 6.1% (August 2014 vs. August 2013). But don’t be fooled by the hype – keep in mind that the rate does not count people who are currently unemployed who’s unemployment benefits have run out, as unemployed. Statistics also do not count people who have dropped out of the work force for a variety of reasons, including being fired or having been pushed into early retirement, and are not collecting unemployment benefits.
Extended unemployment benefits have recently been cut by the current administration. Eligible residents were able to collect unemployment benefits for sometimes up to two years via the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program just a few years ago (originally passed in 2008), but are now eligible for only up to 26 weeks of benefits. The extended benefits program, needed by many and exploited by some, was a program that would certainly be helpful for many struggling job seekers in today’s market. Unfortunate for the long-term and recently unemployed, Congress has chosen not renew the EUC program going forward.
The NYSDOL calculates your weekly benefit amount by taking your highest paid quarter of your base period and dividing the amount by 26, with a maximum of $405 per week in NY State. (Your weekly benefit amount is calculated at a different rate if you earned less than $3,575 in your highest paid quarter of your base period. In this case your earnings are divided by 25 instead of 26 to calculate your weekly benefit rate.)
If you consider long-term job seekers and the many who are currently under-employed, unemployment statistics are substantially higher on Long Island and throughout the US than it appears to be. Many experienced job seekers are finding the job market extremely challenging to navigate. Finding competitive employment has been excessively problematic due to severe competition from other job seekers, there are many recent college grads who can work for a lower salary, and slow full-time job growth. Many older job seekers are being told that they are simply overqualified for the positions for which they are applying. Additionally, many Long Island businesses are choosing to hire part-time employees so not to include health benefits.
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