Jobless Claims Rise to Nine Month High

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Just when you think the unemployment situation is about to improve, numbers start heading in the opposite direction of progress. Last week, for example, initial claims for state unemployment benefits jumped by 12,000 to 500,000, the highest since mid-November, according to the latest numbers from the Department of Labor. This is the fourth rise in jobless claims in the past five weeks.

Meanwhile, states reported 4,753,456 people were claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending July 31, an increase of 260,105 from the prior week. And the four-week average of new jobless claims added an additional 8,000 to reach 482,500, which is the highest since early December.

Responding to the disappointing numbers, President Obama publicly urged Congress to stop holding up the jobs bill, which has been languishing. Obama said that 60 percent of job losses are coming from small businesses, the sector that hires the most workers in a thriving economy, and that it's time for legislators to put partisanship aside and do what they can to help these small business owners.

So how do these numbers affect you, in your state? Here are five things you should know:

  1. Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania have it the worst: The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending July 31 were in Puerto Rico (6.7 percent), Pennsylvania (4.8), New Jersey (4.6), Oregon (4.6), California (4.5), Alaska (4.3), Connecticut (4.3), Nevada (4.3), Rhode Island (4.1), and Wisconsin (4.1).
  2. Extended benefits are available in some states: During the week of July 31st, they included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
  3. California and various other states are still in big trouble: The biggest increase in initial unemployment claims occurred in California (+4,393), Indiana (+1,999), North Carolina (+1,895), Pennsylvania (+1,626), and Georgia (+1,458).
  4. Some states actually had fewer new claims: the largest decreases were in Wisconsin (-1,873), Puerto Rico (-1,014), New Jersey (-688), Utah (-503), and South Carolina (-291).
  5. Layoffs in construction, trade, service and manufacturing are mostly responsible: The states that had more than 1,000 new claims -- which included Texas, Illinois, Florida, Oregon, Miami, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana and California -- cite layoffs in in the previously mentioned industries as being largely responsible for the increases. Layoffs in transportation and industrial machinery were also mentioned by some.

Although the monthly Labor Department report for July showed that 71,000 private jobs were created, another 131,000 non-farm jobs were lost. Some see the expedited passing of the jobs bill as one way to get the numbers moving back in the right direction.

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