HARTFORD, Conn. — The state’s three-month average unemployment rate has triggered an extension of the federal High Extended Benefits program for an additional seven weeks, the Department of Labor commissioner reported Thursday.
Connecticut’s unemployment rate for February rose to 8.5% from 8.1% in January, CTDOL Commission Kurt Westby reported.
The extended unemployment benefits will begin on April 4 and run for seven weeks.
“High Extended Benefits will infuse millions of dollars into households and the economy as both recover from the pandemic,” Westby said in a statement.
According to the commissioner, the CTDOL has disbursed more than $7.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits. He said the funding brought stability to about 580,000 Connecticut workers over the past year.
“It’s critical that we continue to do everything we can to end the public health crisis,” Westby said. “When we do, the labor market will also recover.”
States can trigger the High Extended Benefits when their three-month average unemployment rate is 8.0% or higher.
In Connecticut, it was first triggered on in August 2020 and was triggered off in November 2020.
“The unemployment rate is only one marker of our economy,” CTDOL Acting Director of Research Patrick Flaherty said. “These numbers also signal that Connecticut’s job market is poised to recover once people are vaccinated and feel safe enough to return to daily activities, workplaces, and recreation.”
The announcement comes as U.S. jobless claims fell sharply to 648,000 – the fewest claims since the pandemic erupted a year ago. It is a sign that the economy is improving.
Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims fell from 781,000 the week before. It is the first time that weekly applications for jobless aid have fallen below 700,000 since mid-March of last year. Before the pandemic tore through the economy, applications had never topped that level.
Still, a total of 18.9 million people are continuing to collect jobless benefits, up from 18.2 million in the previous week. Roughly one-third of those recipients are in extended federal aid programs, which means they've been unemployed for at least six months.
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