Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among states that are running out of cash to pay unemployment benefits to the rising number of workers losing their jobs, according to data from the U.S. Labor Department.
Nineteen states have less reserves available for the benefits than the full year recommended by the department. Pennsylvania has enough in reserve to pay benefits for seven months, and New Jersey has four months' reserves. Delaware has 16 months.
Four states - Indiana, New York, South Carolina and Ohio - are down to one to three months, the department said, and Michigan, home of the three largest U.S. automakers, has run out of money and borrowed from the federal government.
Unemployed workers who qualify collect weekly unemployment benefits from the state in which they work. Benefits normally end after 26 weeks, but Congress in June extended them to 39 weeks. They were extended again in November to 46 weeks - and to 59 weeks in states that have unemployment rates of 6 percent or more. As of the latest figures, New Jersey's rate was 6.0 percent, while Pennsylvania's was 5.8 percent.
Nationally, unemployment rose to 6.7 percent in November, the highest since October 1993, according to Labor Department data.
The cost of the jobless benefits, funded with payroll taxes, is expected to contribute to growing financial pressures on state budgets. U.S. states may collect at least $97 billion less than they need to pay their bills over the next two years, the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures says.
"It's going to be pressuring states that are already working on other problems," said Jeanne Mejeur, program director with the legislatures group.
State unemployment funds that need cash, Mejeur said, can borrow from the federal government or from the states, raise taxes paid by employers, or cut benefits.