As America reaches its two year anniversary from the immediate economic collapse that followed the Lehman bankruptcy, punctuated mostly by vast and broad layoffs across every industry, arguably the most relevant topic that few are so far discussing is the expiration of full 99 weeks of maximum claims (EUC + Extended Benefits) for cohort after cohort of laid off Americans. And since these people are certainly not finding jobs in the broader labor market (which continues to contract and thus make the unemployment percentage far better optically than the 10%+ where U-3 should be), their next natural response will be to get very angry at the teat that has suckled them for so long, and is now forcing them to go cold turkey. Which is why we read with little surprise that now in Indiana, and soon everywhere else, unemployment offices are starting to add armed security guards. Of course, the official explanation if a benign one: "Armed security guards will be on hand at 36 unemployment offices around Indiana in what state officials said is a step to improve safety and make branch security more consistent." Why the need to improve safety all of a sudden? The 99 weeks cliff of course. Which means that on your next trek to the unemployment office to collect that last stimulus paycheck from Uncle Sam, you will most likely see the masked fellow below.
More from Indiana news on what is a harbinger of things to come.
No specific incidents prompted the action, Department of Workforce Development spokesman Marc Lotter told 6News' Norman Cox.
Lotter said the agency is merely being cautious with the approach of an early-December deadline when thousands of Indiana residents could see their unemployment benefits end after exhausting the maximum 99 weeks provided through multiple federal extension periods.
"Given the upcoming expiration of the federal extensions and the increased stress on some of the unemployed, we thought added security would provide an extra level of protection for our employees and clients," he said.
Some offices have had guards for nearly two years but those guards were hired on a regional basis, meaning some offices had armed guards while others did not, Lotter said.
The cost of the armed guards varies dramatically around the state. Lotter said the agency is trying to be more consistent and that it plans to employ armed guards in all 36 offices where unemployment insurance benefits are handled.
The overall cost for the security is $1 million, paid for with federal funds designated for administration of the unemployment system, Lotter said.
Other agency offices that provide job training or are not full-service branches will continue to have unarmed guards.
Lotter said state employees in the affected offices have also recently gone through stress-management training in which they learn how to respond appropriately to angry clients.
"This is a stressful time for people in the economy," he said. "That's why we're not only taking this step (of hiring guards), but we're also increasing our training for our staff to be able to help people as they're trying to cope with these changes."
Next up: armed guards at your local social security office, grocery store, and soon, everywhere else.