Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Develops Faster System to Re-Employ the Jobless

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Develops Faster System to Re-Employ the Jobless

Article excerpt

Making it easier for people to claim unemployment benefits has resulted in diminished access to re-employment services in many states, according to a nationwide study. But Oklahoma has developed a system to ensure that more claimants get back to work quickly.

Today, nearly all states accept initial unemployment insurance claims remotely - by telephone, Internet or both - found the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Oklahoma is one of 29 states that accept initial claims via both telephone and Internet. Only six states still require claimants to file in person.

With unemployed workers at a greater risk of long-term unemployment than in the past, it is increasingly important to quickly connect unemployment insurance claimants with re-employment activities, reads the GAO report. However, the shift to remote claims filing in many states has raised concerns about maintaining a connection between the UI program and re-employment services.

The average duration of unemployment has grown over the years, from 11.3 weeks in the 1950s to 16.6 weeks in 2002, the report shows. The fact that UI claimants no longer meet face-to-face with staff led GAO to study whether or not claimants are receiving information on what re-employment services are available.

Knowing how many claimants are actually accessing re-employment service has proven difficult for state and local officials, reads the study. Most states lack this information, arguably critical for good program management, often because data reside in separate systems that cannot be easily linked.

But Oklahoma has made a concerted effort to provide job search workshops to the unemployed, said Jerry Pectol, director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission's Unemployment Insurance division. The re-employment services program is tied in with the agency's UI files, said Pectol.

The people who are scheduled for the workshops are basically pulled from our UI files, he said. It basically automatically puts them in this pool from which they draw. …

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