HARRISBURG - More than 20,000 Pennsylvanians are expected to exhaust their jobless benefits in mid-July, the first large wave of people to do so, the state Department of Labor and Industry said.
Labor and Industry Department Deputy Secretary Patrick Beaty said Friday that the agency sent letters to 21,000 people last week notifying them. However, state lawmakers are working on legislation that would enable federal unemployment benefits to be extended another seven weeks.
Beaty said he expects as many as 25,000 people will exhaust their benefits the week ending July 18. Between state and federal benefits, the unemployed have been eligible for up to 72 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Beaty said there has been no letup in applications for benefits, and the agency does not expect the rising unemployment rate to ease in the coming months. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in May, below the national rate of 9.4 percent.
About 450,000 Pennsylvanians received benefits during the four weeks ending June 20, Beaty said.
Since the recession began in December 2007, Pennsylvania has lost more than 180,000 jobs, or one in every 32 jobs.
If Pennsylvania's legislators agree to extend the unemployment benefit, as many as 60,000 people would be eligible for all or part of the seven-week extension at a projected cost of $145 million, Beaty said.
Normally, the state and federal governments would split the cost of the additional unemployment checks, but the federal stimulus package approved in February picks up both portions, a state Labor Department spokesman said.