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Benefits cutoff to hit N.J.

When the U.S. government ends emergency joblessness relief Saturday, 79,000 residents will lose their aid.

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

The U.S. Department of Labor said Friday that about 79,000 New Jerseyans will be cut off as of Saturday. Earlier estimates had put the number slightly higher.

Nationally about 1.3 million people are losing their extended benefits.

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 of Nevada 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, early projections showed.

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, as well as the state employment rate, are both at their lowest levels in 30 years.