The number of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita victims continuing to receive unemployment benefits has dropped by over 100,000 since benefit claims peaked in early November, the Louisiana Department of Labor reported.
Some 131,548 Unemployment Insurance and Disaster Unemployment Assistance claims were paid for the week ending Dec. 31, 2005 — a 54 percent decline when compared to paid claims for week ending Nov. 5. At that time the number of jobless claims paid to displaced Katrina and Rita workers was 284,717. Those figures include displaced workers in Louisiana and across the country.
“The steady decline in the number of paid claims is a positive sign for the state’s economy,” said Labor Secretary John Warner Smith. “However, we know the recovery will have an ebb and flow, and that we could see a fluctuation in the numbers at any time.”
The drop in claims also means a lot to the state financially. The payments during the peak week ending Nov. 5 amounted to more than $57.9 million in unemployment relief, while benefits paid for the week ending Dec. 31 totaled $25.6 million.
The department attributes the downward trend in paid claims to people returning to work and the reinstatement of federal rules requiring individuals to file weekly claims and be actively searching for employment. Persons who do not file weekly claims risk having their benefits halted.
As of Nov. 27, persons receiving jobless benefits as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita were required to actively search for work and to file their claims weekly. Weekly claims filing and work searches are standard Unemployment Insurance requirements that were waived for hurricane victims immediately following Katrina and Rita.
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