Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Restrictions on job search requirements to be enforced

The Idaho Department of Labor is reinforcing its 12-week limit on the period during which laid-off workers will be considered likely to be called back to their jobs. This so-called job-attached status, usually the result of seasonal shutdowns in various industries, relieves workers from looking for new jobs to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.

“We will no longer have exceptions to this rule,” Benefits Bureau Chief Josh McKenna said. “This is part of our continued effort to focus on claimants as job seekers.”
The decision follows a department analysis that found an excessive number of claimants failing to make the required two job contacts a week to continue receiving unemployment benefits. Since January, the department has denied weekly benefits to 231 claimants for failing to conduct the required work search. During the first three months of 2011, denials for failure to conduct work search totaled 158.

With Idaho’s job market showing continued signs of recovery-the number of non-farm jobs in January and February was two percent higher than a year earlier-opportunities for employment are expanding, McKenna said.

Reinforcing the 12-week limit on job-attached status eliminates the difficulty-and often inequity-of assessing seasonal conditions that vary significantly from one region of the state to another, and the intensified emphasis on returning claimants to work protects the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which went broke in 2009 because of the increased demand for benefits during the recession.

“We aren’t saying that these folks can’t go back to their prior employer, but rather they need to look for and find work during the time they are off,” McKenna said. “It may be in an occupation opposite their normal industry-for example, a landscaper goes to work at the local ski resort. There are available jobs out there right now.”

Idaho’s 12-week limit on job-attached status is greater than four of the border states-Utah at 10 weeks, Washington at eight, Nevada at six and Oregon at four.

“This is a nationwide trend,” McKenna said. “These are our expectations and they need to look for work to be eligible for benefits.

To gain job-attached status, unemployment benefit claimants must have a return-to-work date within 12 weeks of their layoff or hours reduction. If their return-to-work date is beyond 12 weeks, they must look for new full-time work to remain eligible for benefits.

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