Unemployment is low and the work market is robust.
However, 50% of companies anticipate headcount reductions in the next six to 12 months, according to a recent PwC study, and analysts are concerned that a recession is on the horizon. Workers who seek financial assistance from the unemployment benefits system will discover that it has been considerably changed from the system they relied on during the Covid-19 epidemic.
That’s largely because temporary federal regulations approved in March 2020 and extended until Labor Day the previous year have expired. These reforms significantly increased the number of workers who qualify, lengthened the duration of aid, and boosted the amount of weekly compensation.
“The big difference [now] is the programs that were available during the pandemic [are no longer] available,” as per the National Academy of Social Insurance’s Steve Wandner, a senior fellow.
There are few claims for employment and unemployment
Since the beginning of 2021, workers have benefited from a strong labor market. The number of layoffs decreased over that time to historic lows, while the number of job opportunities, voluntary departures, and salary increases all reached all-time highs. With a 3.5% unemployment rate in July, early 2020 will have the lowest rate since 1969.
Although still at prepandemic levels, jobless benefit claims have somewhat grown since the spring. In recent weeks, numerous companies have announced layoffs. The Federal Reserve is also increasing borrowing costs to slow down the economy and control inflation that is still persistently high. According to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics, 73% of economists don’t think the Fed can accomplish that goal without starting a recession.
According to Andrew Stettner, senior fellow and unemployment analyst at The Century Foundation, a liberal think tank, “claims haven’t gone up that much yet — but we’re entering an uncertain period.”
Here are some of the main changes that applicants for unemployment benefits may observe:
Benefit amounts are less
A cooperative federal-state program provides unemployment insurance. The amount of weekly benefits, for example, varies greatly from state to state.
Benefits are paid by states up to a weekly cap. In Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, that cap is less than $300 a week, however in New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington state, it can reach a maximum of over $600 per week.
For around four months in 2020, the federal government provided an additional $600 per week to all recipients of unemployment benefits; this supplement was reduced to $300 per week for the years 2020 and 2021 before coming to a stop nationally in September.
There is no longer a federal stipend provided. Without it, the average American in the first quarter of 2022 received $355 per week through the jobless system, according to Labor Department data. On average, those benefits replaced 38% of pre-layoff pay.
Shortened period of benefit
States also establish a maximum time frame for benefits. In general, beneficiaries are permitted to receive unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. There are certain exceptions, though.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Massachusetts and Montana provide longer benefits, up to 30 weeks and 28 weeks, respectively.
According to the Center, ten states—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina—offer less. The lowest cap in comparison to other states is 12 weeks in North Carolina and Florida.
Not every employee will be eligible for the corresponding state maximum. States base durations on a worker’s past wages and other employment information.
As opposed to the conventional 26-week cap, claimants were qualified for up to 75 weeks of benefits when the federal programs were in operation.
Less requirements to receive perks
According to Wandner, before the pandemic, the only employees who were typically eligible for unemployment insurance were those who held wage and salary positions.
However, millions of more people received temporary benefits from Congress, including low-wage workers, students, independent contractors, gig workers, part-timers, and self-employed people, according to Stettner.
“More people were eligible for benefits than ever before,” he said.
Those groups, though, typically aren’t eligible for benefits under the existing legislation.
Workers who just received benefits might not yet be eligible for additional aid. States base decisions on eligibility, benefit amount, and duration on recent earnings history. According to Stettner, those who have worked 15 to 20 weeks at a full-time job since their last period of unemployment would often have made enough money to be eligible for some benefits.
“You should definitely always file” for advantages, he claimed. “You have nothing to lose.”
There is one other bright spot, according to Stettner: Job seekers should have relatively easy access to state unemployment offices if they require aid because they aren’t relying on the system as heavily as they did in the early stages of the pandemic.