Report: Wash. layoff-avoidance program saves record 32K jobs in 2010

The Washington State Employment Security Department announced Thursday that more than 32,000 Washington workers kept earning a paycheck in 2010 due to the agency’s “Shared-Work Program.” That’s up from the record 22,000 saved jobs in 2009. The program allows employers to cut their payroll costs by reducing the hours of their full-time employees, while the workers collect partial unemployment benefits to make up for some of the lost wages. The estimate of jobs saved last year through Shared Work comes from information on the employers’ original applications combined with their actual use of the program. A record 3,700 businesses and some 51,000 employees were approved to participate in the program in 2010, up from a previous high of 2,700 businesses in 2009. Employment Security paid out $35 million in shared-work benefits to participants in 2010. The department would have paid an estimated $69 million more in unemployment benefits if the workers had been fully laid off and collected the state average of 20 weeks for regular unemployment benefits. In any given week, anywhere from a third to two-thirds of employees approved to participate in the program are actually drawing Shared-Work benefits. The program is designed to be flexible, so employers can add or reduce work hours based on their workload needs. Both public- and private-sector employers are eligible to participate in the program, and employers of all sizes are accepted. Benefits may be paid for up to 52 weeks, and as few as one employee can participate. Only full-time, hourly workers who meet eligibility criteria are eligible for the program. Information about the program is available online at (search on “shared work”) or by phone at 800-752-2500.