As Unemployment Rate Drops, Extended Benefits Get Cut

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s economy is bouncing back as it added nearly 8,000 jobs in January.

As a result, the state’s unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent, which is considerably lower than the national average of 8.5 percent.

Rick Caligiuri, the director of Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance, says Minnesota has the sixth lowest unemployment rate in the nation. But he is concerned about those still without jobs, because the federal government’s extended benefits program has been cut.

That program gets cut off when a state’s unemployment rate dips below 6.5 percent.

Minnesota’s standard unemployment benefits run 26 weeks, Rick Caligiuri said. When that runs out, those who qualify can receive an additional 47 weeks through a federal program called Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation. When that money is also exhausted, there is another 13 weeks of benefits, and this is the program that 5,000 Minnesotans no longer qualify for.

James McConico, who has been unemployed since July and he hopes something happens to keep that safety net in place for himself and others constantly looking for work.

“I don’t look forward to them cutting off the benefits,” McConico said. “But hopefully something will come up or they find funds to help people out.”

Additional cuts to benefits may come to 8,000 Minnesotans soon if Congress does not extend federal benefits beyond next month.

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