Dip in Calif. unemployment rate bittersweet for some

July 19, 2013 1:32:23 AM PDT
More good news on the California job market came out Thursday. The unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.5 percent in June, down from 8.6, and employers added more than 30,000 jobs last month.

However, this good news could be hard to take for some Californians.

The long-term unemployed at the Employment Development Office are stunned. At the height of the recession, the maximum benefit people out of work could get was 99 weeks. That has since been cut to 73 weeks and now, starting with claims the week of August 11, the most anyone can get is 63 weeks.

"The food and the gas, is it decreasing or increase? Thank you. Why are you going to decrease us? Come on," said Mary Lou Hodge an unemployed accountant.

Ten shorter weeks is actually a result of a formula set by the feds. The three-month average must stay above 9 percent in order for Washington to keep funding extended benefits called "Tier 4."

New numbers show that California's jobless rate for June fell to 8.5 percent. The month before, it was slightly higher and in April, it was at 9 percent. The decline is attributed to a recovering California economy where more people are working and spending.

"Yes, it's all good news. However, there are still people who've been unemployed for a long time and still trying to find that next job," said Loree Levy at the California Employment Development Department.

Many of the long-term unemployed don't know what to do now. Things are still bad for them.

Asked how much of a hardship 10 fewer weeks would be, Steven Stoneking, an unemployed stockroom clerk said, "It'd probably kill me. I'd probably get on welfare and get food stamps rolling, stuff like that."

"My kids, to see me this way. 'Mom, why don't you just work at McDonalds because I work there?' I said, 'Sweetie, it's hard. I can't do that," Hodge said.

All extensions, anything after 26 weeks, will expire at the end of the year unless Congress intervenes.


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