On the dole

By Megan McArdle

The unemployment news continues to be unremittingly grim.  According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims rose again, to 589,000.  But the more worrying number is the continuing benefit numbers, which have marched steadily upwards in recent months and now stand at 4,607,000.  But don't worry, says the DOL;  it's less of a spike than an inability of our systems to handle the current claim load:

 


The increase is partly due to a backlog of claims that piled up in recent weeks in several states that experienced computer crashes due to a crush of applications, a Labor Department analyst said. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, was 519,250, the same as the previous week.

But the most shocking news this morning came from the state of South Carolina:

The South Carolina Employment Security Commission says it's run out of money again to pay unemployment benefits.

Executive Director Ted Halley said Thursday the commission is going to have to borrow more money from the federal government because it would have run out of money by Monday to pay claims.

The agency is borrowing an extra $15 million for checks this month, an extra $52 million to make February payments and $92 million to cover March.

Extending unemployment benefits is one of the recession-fighting measures that everyone can agree on.  But with two million people already in the extended benefits program, on top of the 4.6 million claiming regular unemployment, it's going to put a big strain on both the claim systems, and our pocketbooks.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/01/on-the-dole/68/