State unemployment claim systems overwhelmed

The Associated Press reports that state unemployment claim systems overwhelmed.

(emphasis mine)
[my comment]

State unemployment claim systems overwhelmed
By RICHARD RICHTMYER — 1 day ago

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Electronic unemployment filing systems have crashed in at least three states in recent days amid an unprecedented crush of thousands of newly jobless Americans seeking benefits, and other states were adjusting their systems to avoid being next. [this would be the post-holiday wave of layoffs I have been talking about]

About 4.5 million Americans are collecting jobless benefits, a 26-year high, so the Web sites and phone systems now commonly used to file for benefits are being tested like never before.


Even those that are holding up under the strain are in many cases leaving filers on the line for hours, or kissing them off with an "all circuits are busy" message. Agencies have been scrambling to hire hundreds more workers to handle the calls.

Systems in New York, North Carolina and Ohio were shut down completely by technical glitches and heavy volume, and labor officials in several other states are reporting higher-than-normal use.

"Regardless of when you call, be prepared to wait and just hang on. Try not to get frustrated," said Howard Cosgrove, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which boosted its staff of telephone operators by 25 percent last month to cope with a phone system that has been overloaded for weeks. "We sympathize, we're on their side, we're doing our best to help them out."

The nation's unemployment rate in November zoomed to 6.7 percent, a 15-year high. Economists predict it will rise to 7 percent in December, with another 500,000 jobs probably cut last month. The government releases its monthly employment report on Friday.

Some states attribute the increase in call volume in part to an extension of federal emergency unemployment compensation from 13 weeks to 20 weeks in late November. More than 54,000 Pennsylvanians had exhausted their federal benefits after 13 weeks by the time that occurred, said David Smith, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

"It really was a perfect storm," he said.

New York's phone and Internet claims system started to buckle on Monday afternoon and was out of service completely for the first half of Tuesday while as many as 10,000 people per hour tried to get in, said Leo Rosales, a state Labor Department spokesman.

North Carolina's Web site crashed twice this week under a rush of claims as that state set one-day records for both the amount of benefits paid and the number of transactions.

Thousands were unable to get through to Ohio's unemployment hot line beginning Monday because of a crush of callers and technical problems, said Dennis Evans, spokesman for the state Department of Job and Family Services. He said the phone system was running normally again Tuesday afternoon, but the section of the state's Web site that enables people to make claims online remained down.

California has seen a record number of calls to an 800 number over the last few weeks.

Callers to Michigan's main phone line handling applications for jobless benefits got an "all circuits are busy now" message Tuesday afternoon. Officials in Michigan, which had the nation's highest jobless rate at 9.6 percent in November, recently began urging applicants to seek benefits through a state Internet site instead. Michigan counted about 473,000 people as unemployed in November, up from about 370,000 a year ago.

Unemployment agencies from Kentucky to Alaska also are reporting long hold times for callers and slowdowns for those filing online because of higher volume.

Several states have added staff to their call centers to handle the surge, including Ohio, Oklahoma and Washington.

Pennsylvania has hired temporary workers and expanded the hours of its unemployment benefits hot line to accommodate a surge in the number of calls, going from 600 employees to more than 800. Officials hope to eventually have 1,100 workers answering calls.

New Mexico has extended call-center hours, upgraded the phone system and added 15 workers. Even so, "We still are receiving reports of people's inability to get through," said Carrie Moritomo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

In Kentucky, where claims rose to 40,400 in November from 23,400 a year earlier, a flood of new filers overwhelmed the state's unemployment Web site and phone lines on Monday, when more than 8,000 people filed initial claims, said Kim Brannock, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Education Cabinet, which oversees the state unemployment office.

"People seem to feel like they have to file first thing Monday morning," she said. "They don't have to, but they feel that way. It's just overwhelming to the system."

Bizlex reports that state agency greatly increases capacity to handle unprecedented number of unemployment claims (Kentucky).

State agency greatly increases capacity to handle unprecedented number of unemployment claims
submitted by Staff
January 08, 2009 03:06 PM


FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 8, 2009) —
The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet is shoring up Kentucky's automated unemployment insurance (UI) claims systems to handle an unprecedented 88,195 Kentuckians who filed initial claims for regular unemployment insurance benefits in December 2008. The state paid a single-month record of more than $78.6 million in regular UI claims during December.

The agency's KEWES or Kentucky Electronic Workplace for Employment Services Web site at www.KEWES.ky.gov and automated Voice Response Unit (VRU) at 866-291-2926 were overwhelmed by the high volume of calls and Internet traffic that were inundating the unemployment insurance claims system starting Sunday. This resulted in busy signals and long waits for individuals attempting to file claims. People who are receiving UI must request benefit checks bi-weekly and verify they are still jobless. The automated system is available 7 a.m. — 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 p.m. — 9 p.m. Sunday.

The Associated Press reports that jobless payments might set record.

Jobless payments might set record
Associated Press - January 7, 2009 10:25 AM ET

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Officials with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission say unemployment payments to out-of-work Oklahomans are likely to set a record this week.

Unemployment insurance division director Jerry Pectol says $7.6 million has already been paid and he expects the amount to go over $8 million this week.

The commission has already added new phone lines and hired 13 temporary workers to handle an increase in calls.

Pectol says some callers have had waits of up to two hours on hold.

The maximum benefit for unemployment claims filed after January 1 is $409 and Congress has increased the eligibility for payments from 26 to 39 weeks.

The unemployment insurance program is administered by the state
but is funded entirely by the federal government and by premiums paid by employers.

The Sacramento Bee reports that state's unemployment phone lines swamped in California.

State's unemployment phone lines swamped
Jobless callers trying to file claims try for days or weeks, at times only to be cut off.
Wednesday, Jan. 07, 2009


SACRAMENTO -- Unemployed workers seeking jobless benefits have overwhelmed state phone lines, leaving some frustrated callers to give up and instead pile into employment offices in hopes of speeding up the process.

Many callers say they've been unable to get through to the state Employment Development Department to file for unemployment insurance for days or weeks, or were cut off after waiting on hold when they finally did get through.

With California's jobless rate at a 12-year high of 8.4%,
850 staffers in EDD call centers in Sacramento, Oakland, Hollywood, Buena Park, Riverside and Chula Vista have been grappling with surging call volumes, forcing them to put callers on hold for lengthy periods.

EDD call centers were averaging at least 2 million calls a day during the holiday period after big employers filed notices of layoffs to come this month, spokeswoman Loree Levy said. In October, the department received 9 million calls, compared with 7.3 million calls for the same month in 2007.

Because of high unemployment, California's unemployment insurance fund is about to run a multibillion-dollar deficit. A mix of state and federal extensions can give some recently laid-off workers up to 59 weeks of benefits. Depending on salary and work history, a jobless worker can receive a maximum of $450 a week.

Deborah Bronow, deputy director of the unemployment insurance program, said she has redirected EDD staff to meet demand, but officials are facing big challenges and a lot of stress.

"Clients are screaming at the staff because they can't get through on the phones," Bronow said. "People are worried about their homes. They're worried about paying their rents. They're worried about their kids."

The Mansfield NewsJournal reports that jobless claims difficult to file at such volume (Ohio).

Jobless claims difficult to file at such volume
BY LISA MILLER — News Journal — January 8, 2009

MANSFIELD — Some stressed local workers got another dose of frustration this week when they weren' t able to file for unemployment compensation.

A General Motors employee who declined to give his name told the News Journal he tried for six hours Monday to register for benefits via Ohio Unemployment Benefits Online. He said he couldn' t get through using either of the two telephone numbers he had been given.

GM' s Fourth Street metal stamping plant began its holiday shutdown Dec. 19 and was scheduled to lay off about 300 workers by seniority, effective Monday.

Workers laid off from other area businesses likely are adding to the strain on the state' s unemployment claims system. Since mid-November, layoffs have been reported at Jay Industries, Shiloh Industries, Therm-O-Disc, Newman Technologies, Tube City and PPG. Other jobs were lost with the relocation of Conway Freight and the closures of Cord Camera, Value City, Circuit City, Steak-n-Shake and two Cashland outlets.

State officials said phone lines devoted to unemployment claims at the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services were down Monday.

“There' s an unusual amount of claims,” department spokesman Brian Harter said. “I' m not sure why we' re having problems this particular week.”

The Mansfield NewsJournal reports about the wait to file for unemployment in California.

Thursday, 08 January 2009 12:45PM
Filing for Unemployment? Get Ready to Wait

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) -- The clogged phone lines at the Employment Development Department have only gotten worse as California' s jobless rate soars above 8 percent.

Callers using the six phones at the EDD office in San Francisco fall into the same cue as those who call on a cell phone or from home.

“I' m just hoping that maybe my chances are a little better,” said Mike Shanahan, number 26 in a line 40 deep of people waiting for a chance to call directly from the office.

The 20-minute wait time is the same, but a spokeswoman for the EDD noted that at least waiting on hold on their phones doesn' t consume valuable cell phone minutes.

The number of American' s seeking unemployment insurance reached 4.61 million last week, the highest since 1982

My reaction: … Not happy news…

The scariest part is that the worst is yet to come. Job loses are wiping out Americans's income and hyperinflation will soon wipe out their savings…

With so many people having no job or savings, this is going to be a disaster.

-----

If you are looking for a job and you don't mind getting screamed at, try your state's unemployment benefits hot line. They are hiring.


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