Record Year for Unemployment Claims and Benefits
Following the highest levels of unemployment since the early 1940s, California, as well as the rest of the nation, has experienced unprecedented workload levels. In looking back at 2009, the Employment Development Department saw an incredible spike in the demand for Unemployment Insurance benefits, an unprecedented expansion of the federal extension program, and our systems taxed as they’ve never been before. Through it all, EDD has processed unemployment claims that have shattered all prior records, and we continue to enhance our systems so that our customers will experience greater ease this year in starting and managing their Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims.
A record high 1.4 million Californians were certifying for UI benefits in November 2009, according to the most recent information available. In all of 2009, EDD paid $20.2 billion in UI benefits that not only helped sustain families during this difficult time, but also helped support local communities struggling to survive the economic pressures.
- The prior record of UI benefits paid in a single year was set not too long ago in 2008, when the EDD paid out $8.1 billion in UI benefits to out of work Californians.
- That’s a 149 percent increase in the total UI dollars pumped into the State’s economy in 2009 at a rate of about $80 million a day.
- The $20.2 billion paid in benefits in 2009 translates into an economic impact of about $32 billion dollars when you look at how UI dollars spent on basic necessities leads to further spending in the general economy. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the economic multiplier is $1.60 for every dollar paid out in UI benefits.
The growth in UI claims has been stunning through the course of this recession.
- In 2009, EDD processed a total of 6.5 million initial UI claims which is close to double the claim load of 2008 (3.6 million) and is more than two-and-a-half times higher than the claims processed in 2007 (2.5 million) when the recession was just getting underway. The first of the current extensions, Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) began in July 2008. The 2008 and 2009 initial claim counts include the extensions.
- About 30 percent of the current claim load is in federal extension claims. But if you look just at regular UI claims (when someone first starts on a UI claim), it’s clear just how large the UI workload is here in California compared to other states.
In data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, California last year processed twice as many regular UI claims as the next highest state in the nation, Pennsylvania (California with 3.8 million regular UI claims vs. Pennsylvania with 1.9 million).
- In addition, California’s claim load was almost equal to the number of regular initial claims and benefits authorized for the country’s next three most populous states of New York, Texas, and Florida combined.
Hiring and Initiatives to Enhance Customer Experience
We know with this kind of demand on the UI program can make it difficult for some of our customers to reach us. Call attempts to our UI Call Centers doubled in 2009, with an average of around 1.1 million call attempts a day. We also saw record-shattering increases in inquiries and applications filed online through our EDD Web site.
To respond to these demands, dedicated staff have been working overtime and on furlough days to ensure a vast majority of our customers continue to receive their benefits timely.
- In 2009, EDD brought on board more than 1,000 additional staff in the UI program and the hiring continues to help meet the increased demand for our services. We’ve also implemented several initiatives to enhance access to services, including expanded hours for our call centers.
- These additions have helped us respond to nearly 700 percent more online inquiries and process 43 percent more UI applications than we did in 2008.
We’ve invested in developing new online tools and revising our Web site information so we can provide our customers more convenient assistance. We’ve also launched a new automated self-help phone line so customers can retrieve status information about their UI checks, as well as where to find the nearest local employment office to assist with job searches.
- This new line at 1-866-333-4606 is not only available 24 hours a day, but it has also provided assistance to more than 380,000 customers a week and freed up more space on the main phone line for those customers who need to speak with a representative.
There are still more changes to come this year that will ease the customer experience even more. Watch this spring for the launch of an improved online application. EDD also plans to implement this year:
- Technology that will allow our customers to submit their bi-weekly claim forms online instead of the lengthier mail-in process.
- New electronic benefit payments through a debit card or automatic deposit that will get benefits in the hands of our claimants faster.
- Identity management toolsso that we can send you messages when your UI check is processed or when open jobs are posted in your interest area.
- Initial work on overhauling major sections of our old processing systems so we can respond quickly to rapid changes in the UI program like record-setting federal extensions of benefits.
We thank our customers for their patience during this extraordinary demand period in our state’s and nation’s history. EDD remains committed to serving our customers and assisting them through these difficult times and we are dedicated to adopting customer-friendly enhancements to ease the experience of filing for UI and collecting benefits.