State hires workers to speed unemployment claims

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PHOENIX - The state is hiring 45 new workers at its Phoenix unemployment office as the number of claims for unemployment continues to increase.

Unemployment office needs more employees

Department of Economic Security assistant director Pat Harrington says they are needed to deal with a backlog of cases. Some laid off workers are waiting nearly a month to receive their first unemployment insurance check rather than the usual 10 days.

Harrington said they are averaging about 9,000 claims per week.

The positions are exempt from a state hiring freeze imposed by Gov. Janet Napolitano because they are federally funded. Workers will be paid about $26,000 a year but no benefits will be available.

Harrington said the DES doesn't anticipate the need for these employees is going to go away anytime soon.

The maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Arizona is $240, the third-lowest in the nation. Benefits normally last 26 weeks, but Congress has passed two extensions that bring the total to 46 weeks.