Oregon's unemployed relied longer on jobless benefits last year as the state signed off on $1.48 billion in payments.
A report issued today shows 270,700 cashed at least one Oregon unemployment check in 2012, 17 percent fewer than in 2011.
But it was apparently more difficult to find work last year as the economic recovery churned forward. The jobless filed for state-funded benefits for an average 18.3 weeks last year, up from 16.6 weeks in 2011.
In all, 43.3 percent exhausted state benefits after six months. That's a slight decline from 2011, and an 18 percent drop from 2009. That year, more than half ran out of checks before finding a job.
Some then qualify for federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits, a program extended earlier this month by Congress. It now runs through the end of the year. More than 1,000 in Oregon still trigger on to those payments every week.
A separate long-term benefits program expired in April, partly contributing to the declining number of recipients, said Mary Bernert, state unemployment insurance economist, in an e-mail.
Oregon issued $1.98 billion to nearly 326,800 in 2011. Demand peaked in 2010, when 367,900 received a total $2.75 billion.
The average weekly payment climbed about $14 in the past year, from $275.50 to $289.20.
Unemployment in the state has decreased from 9 percent to 8.4 percent during that same time frame. There were 13,500 fewer Oregonians out of work in December 2012 than in 2011. Still, 161,250 continue to search for jobs.
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