The state's improving jobless rate means that long-term unemployment benefits, paid through the federal government, are being cut to 73 weeks from 99 weeks, Employment Security Department officials said Tuesday.
"We are at a difficult point, where our unemployment rate is greatly improved, yet still relatively high," Paul Trause, Employment Security commissioner, said in a statement. "Losing up to six months of benefits will make the unemployment situation a lot more urgent for thousands of families."
There are two federal programs for long-term benefits. One is based on a three-month average unemployment rate for the state. The other is based on how the state's unemployment rate compares to the jobless rate three years ago.
In February, the state's unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent, pushing Washington below the threshold for the two federal programs, which combined grant jobless workers an additional 26 weeks of benefits. Snohohmish County's jobless rate was 8.9 percent in February.
The Employment Security Department will mail notices to all workers who are claiming long-term benefits, with information about how their benefits will be affected.
About 12,500 jobless people in the state will run out of benefits on April 21 and another 11,000 will exhaust their emergency benefits within eight weeks of April 21. Another 40,000 people on unemployment are at risk of running out during the final six months of the year if they can't find work.
In Snohomish County, 1,455 people will lose unemployment benefits immediately on April 21. Another 1,334 could lose benefits within eight weeks of April 21. The county has 9,338 people who have exhausted jobless benefits.
About 175,000 people across the state are claiming either regular, emergency or extended benefits each week. To date, about 76,000 Washington residents have claimed all of their available unemployment benefits.
Sheryl Hutchinson, spokeswoman for the Employment Security Department, noted that if Washington's jobless rate worsens, the long-term benefits could be reinstated. However, there would be a three-month waiting period for a portion of those benefits to start up again.
Both Hutchinson and Trause urge unemployed workers to contact a local WorkSource center for employment assistance.
"If you've been unemployed for a year or more and haven't been able to find a job, you'd probably benefit from some expert assistance," Trause said. "WorkSource has workshops, career counseling and job clubs that can make your job search more productive."
The statewide WorkSource system is a partnership of Employment Security, local workforce development councils, other state and local agencies, and nonprofits. WorkSource offers a variety of employment and training services for job seekers and employers.
WorkSource centers are listed online at go2worksource.com.
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.