TED SIMONS: When should those out of a job file for unemployment benefits? And what else do job seekers need to know? Earlier I spoke with Pat Harrington of the Arizona department of economic security about those issues and more.
TED SIMONS: Pat, thanks for joining us on "Horizon."
PAT HARRINGTON: Thank you.
TED SIMONS: The numbers, 21,000 jobs lost last month, jobless rate now at 8.2%. How many more people are you seeing?
PAT HARRINGTON: Well, we've been seeing steadily 11 or 12,000 new unemployment claims per week. Until a couple of weeks ago, when we saw 14,000 come in our doors. So we hope that that's not indicative of what we're going to see here in the next several months.
TED SIMONS: Compare and contrast to years past.
PAT HARRINGTON: In years past, we are at record setting levels. We have never seen this many people applying for unemployment insurance benefits. We've never seen this many people receiving unemployment. There are roughly 140,000 people receiving benefits now. That's way off the charts.
TED SIMONS: The unemployment rate increasing as we mentioned, but that tends to be a lagging indicator in a lot of areas. How about your area?
PAT HARRINGTON: It does. We generally see people coming to apply for unemployment insurance before they show up in the unemployment rate. So when we're looking for the bottom and for a return to normalcy in our economy, we will look for that number of new claims for unemployment to go down.
TED SIMONS: The help that's out there, the help available for job seekers, what do you got? What's there?
PAT HARRINGTON: The most important tool that we have is the network throughout the state of the one stop career centers. In every county and in most of the major cities there are several of the one stop career centers here in Maricopa county there are two excellent ones that are operated by the county. Couple that are operated by the city that also do a very good job in Pima county, they have a couple. And the rural counties also do a real good job with providing services.
TED SIMONS: When you say providing services, what are soft skills? I see this mentioned every once in a while. Is that when we're talking about here?
PAT HARRINGTON: Well, it can range from soft skills, which are, you know, how to conduct yourself in an interview, maybe refreshing somebody on putting together a resume, maybe somebody's been in a job so long they don't even have a resume. So pretty basic kinds of things. All the way through the notion of training for a new career and there is money available for this kind of thing.
TED SIMONS: It's interesting, some folks I guess in the situation kind of you need to know what your skills are but you also need to know what your interests are and what your capabilities are.
PAT HARRINGTON: Correct. And those one stop career centers all have those kinds of services that will help people find that out.
TED SIMONS: The most common misperception that you see or hear about from folks who just lost a job and they're facing the job market for the first time in a while, common misperception?
PAT HARRINGTON: The thing that we see most often is, well, I'll just go get another job. And so they wait to file for unemployment insurance until the savings or until the severance runs out and then it becomes a crisis. And it is difficult to find a position in these times. Not impossible. But, for example, we've most recently been seeing people receiving unemployment insurance for about 22 weeks. That's still not the 26 week maximum under the regular benefits, but it's way up from where it had been at 14, 15, 16 weeks early on in the recession.
TED SIMONS: As far as those folks who do though kind of get a jump on things here, are, are -- is private industry involved with training for specific skills?
PAT HARRINGTON: Absolutely. There's a partnership with private industry. Many organizations have those kinds of programs and they look to a partnership with government to try to say look, the more we can get people in who know what we need them to know, the more we can hire people. So it really is kind of a partnership that we try to work out.
TED SIMONS: Again, your service is free, correct?
PAT HARRINGTON: Correct. The one stop career centers that are operated by the counties or the city of Phoenix, many of the tribal nations, those are all free, yes.
TED SIMONS: Where does the money come from?
PAT HARRINGTON: The department of labor provides funding through the workforce investment act, through a series of different programs. This is one of these areas of government where there's just a number of different programs and that's the great thing about the one stop center. If you go into one of these one stop centers, what you'll do is say look, this is what I need and they'll provide it for you and you don't have to navigate this maze of programs.
TED SIMONS: I'm hearing federal money. What about the stimulus, a, and b, what about state money?
PAT HARRINGTON: The stimulus has been involved and we received in Arizona for workforce programs about a year's worth of money, about $42 million, to put out there in special programs. Each one of the local areas has a different kind of programs, big emphasis on green employment, big emphasis on environmentally friendly kind of employment. This is not an area where the state is required to provide assistance. A few states do, but most states are like Arizona, they rely upon the federal funds.
TED SIMONS: All right. Last question, most important thing for someone facing a job loss to think about, to consider, to do.
PAT HARRINGTON: As soon as you are laid off, file for unemployment insurance. Don't wait until the severance or the vacation runs out. You won't receive funds right away because the severance or unpaid vacation pay has to -- you have to go through that in Arizona before you're eligible to receive it, but that way we can work through any issues that might exist on your case, 70% of the cases that come to us have issues and so we can get ahead of that and by the time you actually need the funds they'll be available for you.
TED SIMONS: So if someone waits until the end of the severance and then files, what kind of lag time we got here?
PAT HARRINGTON: It depends on the kind of issue that it is. If it's just unpaid vacation, we can dispose of that relatively quickly, but if it's the issue of a dispute between the employer and the worker, one that's going to involve a lot of interviews, a lot of background, you could be looking at four, five, six, seven weeks before we're able to get through that, just based upon the volume that we have these days.
TED SIMONS: All right. Pat, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.
PAT HARRINGTON: Thank you, Ted.