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Unemployment department hangs up on jobless workers

April 9, 2008 |  9:51 am

JobsPerhaps it's time for the state unemployment department to start hiring more telephone operators. Jobless workers filing for benefits have complained about having to make dozens of calls -- one man dialed 46 times! -- and spending hours on the phone before they were able to get through. One caller wept last week after the department's phone system kept hanging up, an Employment Development Department worker told Marc Lifsher.

While customer service has never been the EDD's strong point, its current problems are tied in part to rising unemployment, which is approaching 6%. The department notes that the proportion of unsuccessful calls has fallen dramatically since January and stood at 33% last month as EDD tried to get a handle on the surge in applications. However, with the economy continuing to weaken and employers cutting more jobs, EDD will be under a lot of pressure to keep up.

EDD officials urged unemployed workers to apply for benefits on their website and avoid the overtaxed phone system. Filing electronically, however, is not entirely problem-free, warned Thom Davis, a union business manager.

"It doesn't work so well either," he said. "The servers get so clogged up and it freezes."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: AP