Monthly Archives: October 2016

August Unemployment Rate Holds Steady at 3.8%

Idaho ‘s Over-the-Year Job Growth is Nation’s Fastest

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in August. Nationally unemployment held steady at 4.9 percent.

For the sixth time this year, Idaho was No. 1 in the nation for over-the-year job growth in August. An additional 22,000 jobs – a 3.3 percent increase – was driven by across-the-board gains in all industries. Construction grew the fastest with a 9.2 percent increase followed by growth in financial activities, other services and information.

Month-to-month, growth in the state’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payrolls remained steady between July and August, adding only 100 jobs.

For more information, read the full news release.

New Labor Regional Economist Discovers Diverse Character of Eastern Idaho

As a new resident of eastern Idaho, I am quickly learning there is much more to this traditionally rural area than I anticipated. Each region in Idaho is immensely different from one another, but eastern Idaho has vast diversity within itself. The rural, scenic, untouched beauty of Custer and Clark counties is hard for many people to find within a reasonable distance of their daily lives. In Idaho, these scenic views are just a couple of hours drive away. The Idaho Falls metropolitan area is alive, well and the forefront of economic mobility in the region. Although small compared to metro areas nationally, swift and advanced development of medical facilities, retail shopping and restaurants makes the Idaho Falls metro area an ideal place for young families or for a retirement in paradise. Along with the many economic upsides, there are also challenges for this part of the state.

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Eastern Idaho is made up of nine counties; one urban and eight rural. Each county has experienced population growth within the last few years. Teton County, a rural county and close neighbor of Wyoming, has experienced a 34 percent population hike since 2010. After recently visiting the towns of Victor and Driggs, the reasons behind this rapid growth are clear. These quaint towns are infused with rich culture, diverse food and gorgeous views of the Teton Mountains with the kind of outdoor recreational activities most people dream about. For these reasons and more, there is an influx of migrants – retirees, young outdoor enthusiasts and people of all ages – swarming to these towns looking for adventure.

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Idaho Receives $1 Million to Connect Job Seekers with Workforce Services

The Idaho Department of Labor was awarded a $1.09 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to improve the process of connecting dislocated workers, unemployment insurance claimants, the long-term unemployed and other job seekers to all available services.

Idaho is one of more than 40 states and territories receiving funds from the Reemployment & Systems Integration National Dislocated Worker Grants to provide seed money for solutions to improving connectivity.

Read more details in the full news release.

 

Ten Tips to Avoid Unemployment Insurance Fraud

Protect yourself from unemployment insurance fraud and make sure your benefits arrive on time by following these tips.

  1. File your own initial claim and weekly certifications. Never let anyone else submit your application or weekly certifications on your behalf and never share your password.
  2. Report all former employers. When you apply, report every former employer and why you left, regardless of how long you were employed.
  3. Report all gross wages. Report all wages before tax and deductions each week. Include cash, check, barter and part-time or temporary work including work you do for family and friends.
  4. Register for work at idahoworks.gov. Search for jobs, create resumes and receive job alerts by email—all free.
  5. Actively look for work. Make at least two work-search contacts per week or benefits may be denied.
  6. Be able, available and willing to work. Avoid penalties and charges. Report if you are not able, available or willing to accept work for the entire week claimed.
  7. Keep your address current. Keep your address current and read your mail. You’ll receive several letters outlining what you need to do. If you ignore these letters you could lose your benefits.
  8. Going back to work full time? Stop filing for benefits! If you continue to collect benefits after you’ve gone back to work full time, even if only until your first paycheck arrives, you will be required to repay benefits, plus penalties and interest, and you could face criminal charges.
  9. Be honest. Ignoring the rules or providing false information leads to serious monetary penalties, loss of benefits for one year and possibly jail time.
  10. Know your responsibilities and ask for help. Contact the Idaho Department of Labor at (208) 332-8942.

 

 

Investigations, Recovery Rates of 124% Discourage Unemployment Insurance Fraud

Investigators at the Idaho Department of Labor say they hear every excuse in the book – from ridiculous to outright outrageous – when it comes to claimants who commit unemployment insurance fraud.

  • A claimant suggests a power surge is causing her computer to answer questions incorrectly on her unemployment insurance reports.
  • One claimant simply says he forgot he even has a job. And since he doesn’t remember his job he thinks the next logical step is to file for unemployment.
  • Another claimant suggests he lost his job due to drug use and that drug use is responsible for the errors the Department of Labor found when he filed a claim.

And while these examples may seem silly on the surface, the Idaho Department of Labor takes fraud seriously.

“We actively look for and we do a pretty good job of discovering instances of unemployment insurance fraud,” said Larry Ingram, bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Labor.

Last November, an Eagle man learned the hard way. Jesse David Aldape, 39, received a felony conviction after it was discovered he illegally obtained nearly $9,000 in unemployment insurance benefits. Aldape’s sentence included 45 days in a county jail, 100 days of community service and restitution in the amount of $8,903 to the Idaho Department of Labor.

Another example illustrates just how devastating unemployment insurance fraud can be: Once it was discovered a recent claimant and new employee continued to file for unemployment benefits after starting a new job, the employer terminated the new employee because he didn’t want an untrustworthy worker in his shop. The claimant then tried to file for unemployment, but was denied benefits for at least 52 weeks as a result of committing unemployment fraud.

“Too often, people need the money and think they will just pay us back,” said Josh McKenna, benefits bureau chief at the Idaho Department of Labor. “But it’s not that simple. We charge penalties and interest on top of the fraud. Plus, we deny them benefits for one year and until they pay us the overpayment, penalties and interest.”

That’s why McKenna emphasizes unemployment fraud is a significant issue – and the issues surrounding it are commonly misunderstood.                                                              

“We often hear people say they are entitled to unemployment benefits because they pay into it,” McKenna said. “But unemployment insurance taxes are not deducted from employee paychecks. Those taxes are actually paid by employers.”

Meanwhile, the department continues to vigorously use all of its resources to uncover fraud.

“There’s always plenty of work to do,” Ingram said. “Are we getting better with our data-mining activities? Yes, we are. We have a very aggressive and successful program for identifying fraud and recovering benefit overpayments,” he added. “We also have a high recovery rate.

Between July of 2015 and June of 2016 nearly $4.1 million of the $119 million paid in unemployment insurance benefits were improperly collected by claimants due to fraud and overpayments. Of that, Ingram’s team recovered 124 percent – or nearly $5.13 million, which includes some receivables from prior years.

Ingram emphasizes employers can play a key role in helping to reduce fraud.

“One of the biggest ways employers can help is by notifying the Labor Department in a timely manner whenever they hire someone new,” he said.

Jennifer Souza, a fraud investigator with Idaho Department of Labor, agrees.

“Our computer runs a cross-match against people who are claiming benefits,” Souza said. “It’s pretty hard not to get caught.”

At the same time, she said fraud is easy to prevent, and honesty is the best policy for people filing for unemployment insurance.

“From the time someone opens a claim to each week they file, they receive warnings and are asked very specific, simple and straightforward questions.”

McKenna agrees: “The best thing someone can do if they don’t know the answer or how to report correctly is to ask. Asking for help can prevent large overpayments and penalties that must be paid back to the department.”

Claim specialists can be reached at (208) 332-8942, by using a Click to Chat feature or by emailing. More information, including answers to frequently asked questions can be found at labor.idaho.gov/uifaqs.

The bottom line? Fraud is a preventable offense – and it benefits the whole state of Idaho when it doesn’t happen in the first place.

“It’s an important message,” Ingram said. “I’d much rather see prevention as opposed to punishment.”

Learn more about preventing or avoiding unemployment insurance fraud at http://labor.idaho.gov/dnn/idl/UnemploymentInsurance/UnemploymentBenefits/Fraud.aspx

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