Unemployment benefits to shrink in Connecticut

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned Tuesday that Connecticut is about to pay a price for its improving unemployment rate: Those claiming unemployment no longer will be eligible for the full extended benefits available in states with higher jobless rates.

By the end of the year, the state is likely to have 75,000 unemployed residents who will have exhausted their unemployment compensation, which is a blend of state and federal benefits, Malloy said.

The unemployed now can collect 93 weeks of compensation: 26 weeks of state benefits, 47 weeks of federal emergency compensation and 20 weeks of federal extended benefits.

As a result of the jobless rate dropping for eight months to 7.7 percent, the extended benefits will shrink from 20 to 13 weeks, taking an estimated $83 million out of the state economy, officials said.

Malloy announced at his monthly commissioners meeting that he has asked the commissioners of Labor and Social Services to prepare to guide the unemployed to other services for which they might be eligible, such as food stamps.

“We want to have people start to plan for the end of their benefits,” Malloy said.

In 2009, as a result of congressional action, the unemployed were eligible for up to 99 weeks of benefits, but the federal share of aid has been shrinking as the economy and jobless rates have improved.

Emergency unemployment compensation, which was reduced last month from 53 to 47 weeks, will disappear completely at the end of December.

Starting at the end of May, about 450 will exhaust their benefits every week.

Republicans, meanwhile, used the state’s latest jobs figures to make a case against raising the minimum wage. The state actually lost 2,700 jobs last month, but the unemployment rate dipped as residents left the job market.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said the state’s unemployment rate could appear to improve as recipients lose their benefits.

“The state stops counting those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate has gone down over the past few months because fewer people are actually counted in the overall job market,” Cafero said.

A bill before the House would raise the $8.25 minimum wage by 50 cents in each of the next two years.