New Jersey will be hard hit when federal emergency jobless benefits end this weekend nationwide.

Unemployment Line
Scott Olson, Getty Images

About 79,000 people are now receiving extended benefits in the state, which means New Jersey now has a larger share of its labor force receiving the emergency aid than any other state.

Nationally about 1.3 million people are set to be cut off.

During Townsquare Media's "Ask the Governor" program Monday night, Gov. Chris Christie said there's nothing the state can do. "We're dependent upon the federal government in that regard. And so there's not anything we're going to be able to do regarding that issue. The best thing I can do is to continue to shepherd into existence, here in the state, an improving economy. Because I know everybody who's been on unemployment extension would rather be working."

The U.S. Senate's top Democrat has said the chamber would vote in early January on a benefit extension for the long-term unemployed. Majority Leader Harry Reid promised a vote no later than Jan. 7 on a measure to extend the assistance for three months.

Republicans controlling the U.S. House have opposed a drive to renew the emergency program, in place since 2008, which gives federally paid benefits to jobless people after their 26 weeks of state benefits run out.

Federal benefits have typically been offered during periods of high unemployment, though fewer weeks of extended jobless benefits are available than in previous years.

If benefits are not extended, an additional 89,000 unemployed New Jerseyans will exhaust their state benefits in the first half of 2014.

The current average weekly benefit in New Jersey is about $382, according to an online report on expiring unemployment insurance by Democrats on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

The Congressional Budget Office has said that the extension proposed by Democrats would cost $25 billion, but stimulate the economy by 0.2 percent next year and create 200,000 jobs.

New Jersey has trailed the nation in the recovery of jobs lost during the Great Recession.

In November, the state unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent and New Jersey added 17,000 jobs, a pickup in the pace of the job recovery.

But the U.S. jobless rate is lower, at 7 percent. And economists said the number of those actively looking for work in New Jersey -- and the state employment rate -- is the lowest it has been in 30 years.


(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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