Jobless pay in Hawaii first in U.S.
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Hawaii's unemployment benefits are the highest in the nation, at $404.39 a week, which is more than $100 above the national average.
Those benefits may be extended another 13 weeks if a Democratic bill wins approval from Congress.
While that may be good news for a state facing higher energy costs and a 5 percent inflation rate, more job losses have yet to be counted.
The state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism issued a preliminary report in April estimating an additional 3,820 people who work for companies doing business with the now-shuttered Aloha and ATA airlines eventually could lose their jobs.
Hawaii's latest unemployment rate, which was 3.3 percent in April, eventually could grow to the vicinity of 3.9 percent, DBEDT said.
STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES
The states with the top average weekly unemployment benefit amounts during the first quarter of 2008.
1. Hawaii $404.39
2. Massachusetts $388.37
3. Rhode Island $375.82
4. New Jersey $374.79
5. Washington $342.99
Source: Associated Press
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State unemployment benefits in Hawaii are the highest in the nation at $404.39 a week -- more than $100 above the average -- and they may be extended if a bill makes its way through Congress.
A House bill proposing to extend the average $300-a-week unemployment benefit check by 13 weeks in all 50 states and the District of Columbia narrowly was defeated yesterday after the White House threatened to veto it.
Job seekers in states where the unemployment rates are 6 percent or more -- like Alaska, California, Michigan and Rhode Island -- would have been able to get an extra 13 weeks on top of that.
Democratic leaders said they immediately will bring the bill back for a second vote today.
Hawaii's latest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.3 percent in April was well below the national average of 5 percent for that month.
But that rate was only a partial reflection of the impacts of high-profile closures from Molokai Ranch, Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines, according to data from the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
Approximately 2,100 Aloha and ATA employees lost their jobs due to the shutdowns.
The state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism has estimated that an additional 3,820 people who work for companies doing business with Aloha and ATA eventually could lose their jobs, pushing Hawaii's unemployment rate to the vicinity of 3.9 percent.
Hawaii, at the same time, is dealing with an inflation rate of about 5 percent due to higher food and energy costs.
House Democratic leaders brought up the unemployment benefits bill under a procedure that required a two-thirds vote for approval. The final vote was 279-144, just three votes shy of the margin needed for passage and to overcome a presidential veto.
Majority Democrats said the legislation was needed because of the tough economy and rising unemployment rates. But the White House said emergency steps like extending unemployment benefits have historically been taken only when the unemployment rate jumps considerably higher than the 5.5 percent reported for May. Hawaii has not yet reported its jobless figure for that month.
The Bush administration also said the bill gives extended benefits to all states regardless of their unemployment rates. For example, South Dakota and Wyoming reported unemployment rates of 2.6 percent.
White House officials said they could support a bill that only offers the 13-week extension to high-unemployment states.
States with an unemployment rate of 6 percent or more include: Michigan (6.9), Alaska (6.7), California (6.2), Rhode Island (6.1) and the District of Columbia (6.0).
Unemployment insurance is a joint program between states and the federal government that is almost completely funded by employer taxes, either state or federal. Typically, they are available for up to 26 weeks.
The national unemployment benefit rate averages out to $299.14 per week.
Star-Bulletin staff writer Nina Wu and Associated Press writer Jesse J. Holland contributed to this story.