Jobless claims on Long Island declined slightly last week as unemployed New Yorkers continue to wait on an extra $300 in weekly aid and others raise questions about how the state’s system currently operates.
Last week, unemployment claims on the Island dipped slightly to 6,148, a 2.2% decrease from the 6,286 claims that were filed a week earlier. Though claims have continued a protracted decline over the last six months, the weekly number of those seeking jobless insurance remains much higher than normal.
During the same week last year, 2,187 Long Islanders filed for aid. The region hit a peak in early April, with a week that saw more than 59,000 claims.
Despite ongoing reopening efforts on the Island and the broader New York region, the loss of jobs remains striking.
The New York metro area lost 1.3 million jobs between July 2019 and this July, according to a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The leisure and hospitality industry has been the hardest hit in the region, having seen a 43.9% decline in jobs over the year, compared with 24.2% nationally.
While many New Yorkers continue to wait on an extra $300 in federal unemployment aid the state was approved for but has yet to disperse, at least one former elected official said other problems with New York’s unemployment system must be addressed.
Earlier this week, former Riverhead Town Supervisor and Democratic Assembly candidate Laura M. Jens-Smith said the way the state calculates unemployment aid for part-time workers is “archaic” and is “discouraging people going back to work when they’re not going back to an eight-hour day.”
Under the current system, which requires unemployed New Yorkers to list any days they worked during the most recent week, jobless aid recipients can see a 25% reduction in their weekly payouts for each day they worked, even if it's just for an hour or two.
“The way that New York State is set up is that you can go back to work part time, but it’s set up so that if you go back to work for four days in a week, you are no longer eligible for unemployment,” Jens-Smith said Wednesday. “Where the glitch comes is, as people go back to work part time, they’re not doing this typical 9-to-5, eight-hour day.”
Pointing to the leisure and hospitality industry, Jens-Smith said many employers are in a position where they may be having workers come back on a limited schedule with reduced hours as they recover from the effects of the shutdown. As it is currently set up, a worker who shows up for a few hours a couple of times a week could see serious decreases in unemployment aid, discouraging job seekers from working part-time positions and encouraging dishonesty when certifying unemployment claims each week.
To address the issue, Jens-Smith said state lawmakers should work to pass a piece of legislation sponsored before the pandemic by Assemb. Al Stirpe (D-North Syracuse) and Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Jackson Heights). The bill, which passed the Assembly twice in the last two years, has failed to be passed by the State Senate. This year's legislative session ended in July.
“I thought that we would address it again on one of the last sessions we had a month or two ago,” Stirpe said Wednesday. “This is even more important now than it was before.”