US. unemployment rate falls to 8.4 percent

A help wanted sign hangs on the door of a Target store in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday. 

The state will roll out a new website for people seeking jobless benefits in June, updating a 40-year-old computer system that was strained by the unprecedented spike in unemployment claims last year as the pandemic shutdown vast swathes of the economy.

"The new system will be easy to use, provide access to important information, and streamline the unemployment claim filing process for workers, employers, unemployment program staff, and third-party administrators," said Acting Secretary of Labor and Industry Jennifer Berrier.

"The pandemic stressed an already-antiquated IT platform and we look forward to improving the process so that out-of-work Pennsylvanians can focus their time and attention on finding a new job," she said.

The new website is scheduled to launch on June 8, she said. The state will need to freeze the unemployment system for two weeks ahead of the launch of the new website to allow workers to transfer data from the old computer system to the new system, Berrier said.

To help the public understand how to use the new system, the state plans to roll out educational materials and hold live workshops before the launch, she said. The new website will be easier for the public and for state workers to use, she said. It will also work better on phones and mobile devices than the old computer system, she said.

Berrier announced the launch of the website on the same day she faced members of the Senate appropriations committee in a budget hearing.

State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington County, said that the state’s old unemployment website is “not just antiquated,” but “completely dysfunctional.”

Bartolotta said that the new computer system should translate into better service for unemployed workers.

“I am optimistic that with the new system coming online soon, a lot of these challenges will be alleviated,” she said. But she added that the problems facing the state’s unemployed workers were aggravated by the fact that Gov. Tom Wolf had ordered more “draconian” economic shutdowns than governors in many other states. As a result, “the average new claims were in the 40,000 number and then launching almost instantly into the millions,” she said.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

 

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CNHI PA State Reporter

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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