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20,000 Connecticut residents will lose their unemployment benefits next month

Mark Lennihan

Over 20,000 Connecticut residents will lose their federal unemployment benefits in January due to the state's unemployment rate dropping below the federal level for extended benefits, according to Hearst Connecticut Media.

States with unemployment rates above 6.5% for three months are allowed 13 weeks of jobless aid from the U.S. Department of Labor. The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.4% in October to 6% in November.

Benefits for unemployed residents will end on Jan. 8, 2022.

Chris DiPentima, the president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said unemployment rates are falling due to several reasons.

“I think people are finding employment and getting full employment that they like and with the federal subsidy going away in September, it's taken us a little longer than we all thought,” DiPentima said. “It’s very challenging to live on unemployment benefits because they’re not normally as much as you made when you were working.”

Another reason might be because workers feel more safe going to work now than they did at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Most of the state has been vaccinated so as our positivity number continues to go up and down on a daily basis, they generally understand that the workplace is safe” DiPentima said.

The state Department of Labor estimates the state has now recovered just over 220,000 of the 293,000 lost permanently statewide during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. They estimated Connecticut added 5,600 jobs last month.

With unemployment rates dropping, DiPentima said that there are still plenty of jobs for those who remain unemployed.

“There’s more than 70,000 job openings in Connecticut right now so we have more job openings than we do people collecting unemployment,” DiPentima said. “It’s just a matter of the individuals finding the right job opportunities for them, one that they’re interested in but also ones that they have the necessary skills to be able to get employed through.”

DiPentima said there’s plenty of places to look for jobs including using a private sector like LinkedIn or Monster, or going onto the Department of Labor’s job posting board.

With the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus making its way through the state, unemployment rates could suffer. Some workers might not feel safe going into work even though most workplaces in the state have a mask or vaccine mandate. If the unemployment rate does rise to the levels where the state could receive federal benefits, DiPentima said it’s up to the federal government to decide whether or not the state would get their benefits back.

“We've heard it from the governor, we've heard it from legislative policy makers and they’re very concerned about the labor shortage but the fact that businesses have the ability to grow or the economy has the ability to grow but we're not able to find people to apply for these positions and fill them,” DiPentima said. “There will certainly be that dilemma if the numbers go up… do we do a rollback? Are people allowed to then collect unemployment again? That would certainly hinder the economy and probably any chance of us having any type of robust recovery.”

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.