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Arizona jobless rate idles, triggers benefits change

PHOENIX – Arizona’s jobless rate held steady at 8.2 percent in May,
triggering federally required changes that will reduce the length of extended
unemployment benefits, officials said Thursday.

The May jobless rate was unchanged from April as private-sector employers had
above-average increases in jobs while public schools had above-average losses,
Department of Administration economists reported.

Separately, the Department of Economic Security said the state’s average
jobless rate for the past three months has fallen below a 9 percent threshold
that triggers federal reductions in so-called “tier-four” extended
unemployment benefits.

Those benefits provide 16 weeks of additional coverage. That’s in addition to
regular coverage and several initial tiers of extended coverage. All those
categories added up to 89 weeks of coverage.

The DES said the triggered changes don’t affect the 11,000 people who became
eligible for tier-four benefits before June 1, but people who become eligible
for tier four benefits between June 1 and June 23 will only get six weeks of

People won’t be newly eligible for tier-four benefits after June 23, meaning
benefits will stop for as many as 700 people a week, DES said.

Mark Darmer, a DES administrator for the unemployment benefits program, said
other tiers of federally funded benefits for 14 weeks and 13 weeks also are tied
to unemployment rates and would expire if three-month averages drops below
certain levels.

However, that’s unlikely to happen in in the near future, Darmer said. “We’re
kind of stagnant right now,” he said.

The Department of Administration said Arizona’s economy lost 8,100 jobs in May.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector had the biggest increase with
3,700 more jobs, followed by construction with 2,900, and educational and health
services with 1,300.

The local government sector lost 12,300 jobs, while state public education lost
3,500 jobs.