News & Press

Does a Low Unemployment Rate Equal Higher Wages?

With the national unemployment rate remaining below 5 percent, many wonder if pay rates will increase as businesses begin competing for available skilled workers. According to Marcia Miceli, Professor of Management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the answer depends on a variety of factors.

Read the discussion here: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/319523-falling-unemployment-leads-to-rising-wages-right-not-so

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Employee Forced to Quit Receives Favorable Ruling

Connecticut – A 60-year-old nurse who was employed at a facility specializing in short and long term rehabilitation, left her job after 29 years of employment due to an adverse change in her work duties. She was initially hired to work with patients who needed minimal assistance but was later required to work with patients who were paralyzed, a transition that significantly increased the amount of physical work required from her.

The employer fought the claimant when she sought unemployment benefits and the unemployment compensation administrator sided with them stating the claimant “voluntarily left suitable work without good cause attributable to her employer.” A referee affirmed the administrator’s ruling, but the Board of Review sided with the employee. According to attorneys specializing in labor and employment law, “this ruling is part of a growing trend benefiting Connecticut employees.”

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U.S Unemployment Claims Continue to Fall

According to the U.S Labor Department, initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 246,000 for the week ending Jan. 28, 2017. Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 100 straight weeks. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.

Read more here: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/u-jobless-claims-fall-more-expected-last-week-133349063.html 

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Appeals Court Approves Unemployment Benefits

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New Bill Plans to Limit Benefits Based on State Rates

Missouri – A new bill (HB 288) proposes that unemployment benefits be cut based on the state’s unemployment rate. If  passed, the unemployment eligibility period will drop one week for every half percent change in the unemployment rate. If the unemployment rate is 9 percent or higher, the eligibility period remains 20 weeks, but if the rate falls below 6 percent the eligibility period plunges to 13 weeks.

This bill also seeks to consider severance and termination payouts as wages thereby delaying when a claimant is eligible to start receiving unemployment benefits.

The restrictions proposed in this bill have been projected to save the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund up to $6.5 million. The bill is currently making its way through the legislature.

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New Legislation Aimed at Fighting Fraud

On Tuesday January 17th, the Senate signed a bill that will enable the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to gain access to the National Directory of New Hires, a federal database that contains personal and financial data on nearly every working American, as well as those receiving unemployment compensation. It is hoped that better oversight of this database will help the GAO to identify potential fraud in federal programs and ensure that these programs help those who are most in need.

The Legislation is waiting to be signed by the President.

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Computer Glitch Falsely Accuses Unemployed of Fraud

Michigan – The State of Michigan used an error-prone computer system that has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of unemployment insurance fraud dating all the way back to 2007. Michigan residents who have been falsely accused are estimated to number between 27,000 and 50,000. Those wrongly accused of fraud were in many cases subjected to 400% fraud penalties, wage garnishment and other aggressive collection techniques, such as seizure of income tax refunds. Tens of millions of dollars were unlawfully taken. A class action law suit has been filed against the state in attempts to reimburse the wrongfully accused.

UPDATE:  On Thursday February 2, 2017, The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency settled a federal lawsuit stemming from the state’s past reliance on an automated computer system that made tens of thousands of false fraud claims against residents. The settlement requires the agency to “conduct an investigation consistent with prevailing U.S. Department of Labor requirements” before making a fraud determination. Any re-determinations of misrepresentation or fraud will be issued “only after the input and review by agency staff, and after the claimant is informed of the conflicting information and provided an opportunity to respond.” However, the settlement does not award monetary damages to plaintiffs, beyond mandatory refunds of fines and penalties levied for false fraud determinations. A separate class-action suit seeking additional financial compensation remains active in state court.

Read more about this ruling here:  http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/02/02/michigan-settles-federal-unemployment-fraud-case/97395906/

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Wait Times for Unemployment Compensation Escalate after Funding Expires

Pennsylvania – Due to the expiration of a four-year funding stream to the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program, hundreds of state workers were laid off leaving many state unemployment call centers severely understaffed. Before layoffs, the average wait time to call the UC service center was just under ten minutes. Now wait times are averaging upwards of 3 hours leaving many laid off workers frustrated and anxious for assistance while discussions on funding to the UC program are at a standstill.

 

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New Federal Guidelines Help Contingent College Faculty Collect Unemployment

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidance clarifying when states should deem colleges’ contingent faculty members eligible for unemployment compensation. It spells out what criteria the state agencies should use in determining whether such instructors have lost their jobs or are simply without work during the summer months.

It is hoped that the new guidance will make it easier for deserving contingent faculty members to collect unemployment compensation and save both instructors and their employers legal costs associated with disputes over claims.

To read more details on the department’s new guidance click here: http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/new-federal-guidance-is-hailed-as-helping-adjuncts-collect-unemployment/116401

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MA Unemployment Rate Below 3% – Lowest Since 2001

The Bay State’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.9% in November, marking the first time it has dipped below 3% since the beginning of the century.

Please click the link below for more details

Massachusetts unemployment rate falls below 3 percent

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