TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – The drop in the state’s unemployment rate in March may have been a sign of brighter days ahead.  However, gloomy times are looming for those who still have not landed work.

Federally extended unemployment benefits, which previously provided up to 20 weeks of additional compensation, will be cut May 12 because Florida’s nine percent March 2012 unemployment rate dropped below the minimum level required for the benefits.

Maximum state benefits without extensions have already been cut from 26 to 23 weeks. That’s likely to be reduced again in 2013 under a new law linking time of compensation to the unemployment rate.

The maximum benefit is 12 weeks if the jobless rate averages five percent or less in the third quarter of the prior year. For every half percentage point above five percent, a week of benefits will be added until the 23-week cap is reached at 10.5 percent.

That means even if the nine percent jobless rate recorded in March remains unchanged, the maximum benefit would drop to 20 weeks next year.

Federal emergency unemployment compensation that once offered up to 53 weeks of benefits will also expire by the end of 2012.

Unless Congress extends the emergency benefits, the impact could be a reduction in combined state and federal compensation, which once offered up to 99 weeks of benefits, to 20 weeks or less for Florida workers who lose their jobs in 2013 or beyond.

Those currently drawing compensation or who apply before the end of 2012 will face less drastic reductions.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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