Improved Jobless Rates Could Endanger Benefits For Some

Lower Unemployment Also Means Cuts In Benefits

Indiana's unemployment rate has dropped and other monthly indicators are trending favorably for the state, but that could spell bad news for those still without jobs.

The new jobless numbers show Indiana's January rate was 8.7 percent, 0.2 percentage points lower than the revised December figure, RTV6's Norman Cox reported.

Indiana trailed the national figure by 0.4 percentage points, but it was better than any of the surrounding states except Ohio.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is especially happy that the total workforce -- the combined number of people working and people actively looking for work -- had returned to its prerecession levels

"We take this as a sign of the work ethic of Hoosiers. They want to work. They're looking for work," Daniels said. "I think it's also a sign of some optimism. They see enough activity to encourage those who are not already employed to get out and look."

But the lower jobless rate isn't good news for everyone.

Based on a three-year formula, Indiana no longer qualifies for the final 20 weeks of federal extended unemployment benefits.

That means the most an unemployed Hoosier can now get is 79 weeks, instead of 99.

"They can claim benefits up until Sunday, April 15," said Valerie Kroeger, spokeswoman for Workforce Development.

Kroeger explained that this isn't like other tiers of unemployment benefits where individuals can keep receiving payments until they exhaust their maximum number of weeks.

Once this tier expires, payments stop right away.

"Extended benefits are a little different than the other tiers. It's an immediate cut-off date," she said.

Many of the long-term unemployed who RTV6 talked with outside the East Side Work One office said they're concerned.

"I think it's going to probably make the crime rate rise up," one person said. "People are going to get more desperate, and they're going to do something. It's not a good thing at all."

But others agree with Republican critics that 99 weeks is too much.

"Ninety-nine weeks is, that's two full years. Even though I still haven't been able to get a full-time job anyway," another person said.

The state said about 10,000 Hoosiers currently receive benefits from that 20-week tier and will lose them next month.

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