The Idaho Department of Labor is reinforcing its 12-week limit on the period during which laid-off workers will be considered likely to be called back to their jobs, the department announced Friday.
That job-attached status allows workers to remain eligible for unemployment benefits during a seasonal layoff without meeting the standard requirements of looking for new jobs.
To gain job-attached status, unemployment benefit claimants must have a return-to-work date within 12 weeks of their layoff or hours reduction. If their return-to-work date is beyond 12 weeks, they must look for new full-time work to remain eligible for benefits.
The department will no longer allow exceptions to the 12-week rule, Benefits Bureau Chief Josh McKenna said.
We arent saying that these folks cant go back to their prior employer, but rather they need to look for and find work during the time they are off, McKenna said. It may be in an occupation opposite their normal industry for example, a landscaper goes to work at the local ski resort. There are available jobs out there right now.
The decision follows a department analysis that found an excessive number of claimants failing to make the required two job contacts a week to continue receiving unemployment benefits, according to a Department of Labor news release. Since January, the department has denied weekly benefits to 231 individuals for failing to conduct the required work search. Thats up from 158 during the first three months of 2011.
With Idahos job market showing continued signs of recovery the number of non-farm jobs in January and February was 2 percent higher than a year earlier opportunities for employment are expanding, McKenna said. Reinforcing the 12-week limit on job-attached status eliminates the difficulty, and often inequity, of assessing seasonal conditions that vary significantly from one region of the state to another, department officials said. And, they say, the intensified emphasis on returning claimants to work protects the states Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which went broke in 2009 because of the increased demand for benefits during the recession. Idahos 12-week limit on job-attached status is longer than in four bordering states: Utah allows 10 weeks, Washington eight, Nevada six and Oregon at four.