Thursday, July 03, 2008

Granholm Signs Emergency Unemployment Compensation Agreement

We had to sign-off on funding the war to the tune of $162 billion, but we managed to get the feds to extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks. Just in the nick of time, too, as the numbers came out this morning indicating that for the sixth straight month, nervous employers across the country have cut jobs.

Employers cut payrolls by 62,000 in June, the sixth straight month of nationwide job losses, underscoring the economy's fragile state. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent.

The latest snapshot of business conditions, released by the Labor Department on Thursday, showed continued caution on the part of employers who are chafing under high energy prices and are uncertain about how long the economy will be stuck in a sluggish mode, reflecting fallout from housing, credit and financial troubles.

Nationwide, we have lost an estimated 438,000 jobs this year, an average of 73,000 a month.

For canary-in-the-coalmine Michigan, the unemployment extension will come as a welcome relief to workers who have or are on the verge of exhausting their benefits. Granholm signed the extension agreement yesterday which will set the paperwork wheels in motion; don't call the UIA yet, they will get to you.

With a signed agreement in place, the state's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has begun to identify those unemployed workers who are eligible for the EUC benefits.

Next week, the agency expects to mail out applications and filing instructions to some 230,000 potentially eligible workers. In addition, unemployed workers who are receiving regular unemployment benefits will be mailed the same instructions and application as they near the end of their regular state unemployment benefits.

The UIA is encouraging jobless workers to be patient and not to call the agency immediately to inquire about their eligibility for these federal EUC benefits. Everyone who is potentially eligible should receive their mailed applications by July 18.

According to the Detroit News, this extension will cover 226,000 Michigan workers. Those who exhausted their benefits starting in November of 2006, and running through March of 2009, will be eligible to receive the extra 13 weeks.

As I write this, crude oil is riding at $144 a barrel, and prices for heating oil are pushing the market up today. Higher energy costs will keep employers and consumers nervous, and eventually we will have to extend these benefits even further.

So much for the "one state recession" nonsense. We just happened to get hit first.