Times Bulletin Editor

With the end of the month quickly approaching, suddenly a large number of Ohioans may be watching C-Span.

According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, about 432,000 Ohioans are unemployed and approximately 200,000 of those will lose their benefits if they are not extended by February 28. On Monday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for an extension of benefits that would last through the end of this year.

"Too many middle class families are struggling to get by," Brown said. "This legislation will help Ohioans and all Americans who worked hard and played by the rules but are still struggling to find jobs. We must extend unemployment insurance while passing critical jobs legislation that will give incentives to businesses that hire unemployed workers."

Brown's plan calls for full federal funding of the Extended Benefit program, adding $25 per week to benefits, and voiding federal income taxes on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits. All of this is in addition to the extension until the end of the year. He did not offer a total cost on the program that would run into the tens of billions of dollars but the extra $25 per week by itself would cost nearly half a billion dollars in Ohio alone.

Meanwhile, a jobs bill that was wending its way through the Senate was sideswiped by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid erased near $70 billion worth of tax breaks for businesses and individuals, including unemployment benefit extensions. The bill would allow a break on Social Security payments for businesses on new hires and a $1,000 tax credit for any new workers who were still employed a year from now. It also sent $20 billion to the highway trust fund.

The irony of Reid's taking away the unemployment extensions is that he lobbied for them only last month but was kept from it by a lack of votes.

At the same time, Ohio and other manufacturing states are struggling to keep their unemployment systems afloat. Ohio's unemployment was at 13.6 percent in December, the last month for available data. But that is only what is called the U-3 number.

The U-3 percentage is the number of workers who are actively seeking work and have no other means of support. More telling is the U-6 rate. The U-6 jobless rate includes residents who have given up looking for work or have taken part-time jobs in order to have some money coming in. Ohio's U-6 rate is estimated to be near 24 percent, or nearly one in four adults in Ohio. This compares to a U-6 rate of 17.3 percent for the U.S., the highest estimate in the history of the statistic.

State and county unemployment numbers will be released over the next ten days.