State jobless funds dwindle as economy sours

Rising unemployment rates are making it harder for more states, including Indiana, to pay jobless benefits, according to

The non-partisan organization, which reports on trends in state policy, says unemployment insurance trust funds are in danger of insolvency in California, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

It cites a study by the National Employment Law Project showing that Indiana is among 11 states that could join the group if the job slump continues. Indiana’s unemployment rate in August was 6.4 percent, compared with 4.5 percent a year ago.

Indiana’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund opened the decade with $16.6 billion in assets. But by the end of last year, it had dwindled to $302 million. And last spring, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said the balance was just $80 million.

A DWD spokesman told IBJ in May that the state should be able to pay benefits for the rest of this year but will be in a “near-deficit situation” in 2009.

In neighboring Michigan, which has the nation’s highest unemployment ratem at 8.9 percent, there isn’t enough money in its insurance fund to cover claims. So the state has resorted to borrowing from the federal government to pay jobless benefits.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits is at the highest levels since 9/11. The rise in unemployment drains states’ revenue and hinders their ability to pay benefits.

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