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Unemployment jumps up in December

Chautauqua County’s unemployment rate increased 1.5% over the past month, higher than the typical increase in past years.

Chautauqua County’s unemployment rate increased from 6.3% in November to 7.8% in December. The unemployment rate hasn’t been that high in December since 2012, a year when the average unemployment rate for the year was 8%. In a typical year over the last decade, unemployment typically increases between .5 and .8% from November to December.

The unemployment rate increase actually didn’t stem from more people being losing their jobs, as employment remained the same in November and December. Instead the change in the unemployment rate came from an additional 900 people joining the labor force in December. The county’s labor force is now 52,000, its higher number since August.

Initial unemployment claims also increased, according to state Labor Department data, to 410 the week ending Jan. 16. Initial unemployment claims the same week in 2020 were 132, which means the number of initial claims has increased 211% year-over-year.

Since the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, New York state has distributed more than $62 billion in unemployment benefits to 4 million New Yorkers — representing over 29 typical years’ worth of benefits paid in just ten months.

Among Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State proposals is boosting partial unemployment insurance benefits to New Yorkers who return to work part-time by counting hours for unemployment benefits rather than counting days. Cuomo said the change will inject more money into New York’s economy while helping businesses fill part-time positions.

“The COVID pandemic has created dual crises, putting Americans’ physical health and financial wellbeing at risk — and in New York we are addressing both sides of this public health emergency. I am immediately directing the Department of Labor to change outdated rules so as we build back from the pandemic, unemployed New Yorkers aren’t penalized for taking part time jobs,” Cuomo said. “Encouraging part-time work will help New Yorkers get back to work quickly, give small businesses the flexibility needed to navigate these difficult times, and ensure our neighbors have money to put food on the table.”

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