"The trust fund has recovered in a way it was designed to do," Bussey told members of the Legislature's
Today, an average of 11,000 workers certify for unemployment benefits every week, much lower than the 50,000 a week during the recession. Workers are also finding new jobs faster, and the average duration of benefits in
Workers who lose a job through no fault of their own can qualify for up to 26 weeks of assistance, though the amount is less than half of their employment wages.
The unemployment insurance program is funded entirely by business owners who are assessed based on their individual claims history, as well as the fund's solvency. Calculations are by the
Though most businesses should see a reduction, not all will because the other part of the premium is based on the claims history of a business, Bussey said.
The unemployment fund balance dropped below
Many restaurants, construction firms and seasonal businesses have been hit especially hard with increased premiums because they routinely hire employees in the high season and then lay them off during slower months.
Bussey, however, said the increased premiums the past two years have served as a wake-up call for many owners and managers, who have become more engaged in employment law. She said her department has held presentations and answered employers' questions on how to reduce unemployment claims. One way is by addressing issues such as absenteeism earlier, she said.
"Restaurants, retail outlets, even national laboratories have to be more aware of their employment practices," Bussey said, whether that means updating employee handbooks or educating managers about what they can do better.
At 6.6 percent,
Technology makes applying for a job easier than ever, she said, but that doesn't mean laid-off workers are necessarily taking advantage of it.
"Technology is great, but we forget about the human systems, someone who can hold their hand and help them through the process," she said. "We've reinvigorated our local offices so that they don't have to wait for people to come to them."
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