The state is hiring 45 new workers at its Phoenix unemployment office as the number of claims soars because of the soured economy.
Department of Economic Security assistant director Pat Harrington says they are needed to deal with a backlog of cases. Some laid off workers are waiting nearly a month to receive their first unemployment insurance check rather than the usual 10 days.
The positions are exempt from a state hiring freeze imposed by Gov. Janet Napolitano because they are federally funded. Workers will be paid about $26,000 a year plus full benefits.
The maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Arizona is $240, the third-lowest in the nation. Benefits normally last 26 weeks, but Congress has passed two extensions that bring the total to 46 weeks.