The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has announced that it will close its unemployment compensation service center at 2901 Grant Ave. on Aug. 15.
The telephone-based customer-service office is staffed by 75 permanent and intermittent employees who answer calls from people on unemployment.
The workers are represented by the SEIU and AFSCME unions, but do not have the right to “bump” less senior employees at other centers.
Staff members, who heard the news on July 16, will receive employment services to help them return to the work force as quickly as possible.
Julia Hearthway, secretary of the labor and industry department, said Pennsylvania’s improving economy and declining unemployment compensation claims have resulted in diminished federal funding for unemployment compensation administration. That funding is used to operate the Grant Avenue location and eight others across the state.
“The number of UC claims being filed has dropped since the recession’s end,” Hearthway said. “We aren’t back to the level of pre-recession claims, but the volume has dropped to the point where the need for higher capacities and greater expense isn’t there.”
Pennsylvania’s initial unemployment compensation claims have decreased by 40.7 percent since January. Continued claims are down 37.5 percent.
At the same time, private-sector jobs have grown 3 percent, ranking the state 16th in post-recession private-sector job growth.
Sara Goulet, a spokeswoman for the labor and industry department, said the Philadelphia office was chosen as the one to close because the lease was expiring.
Goulet said the department was paying “substantially more” in rent for that building than for others around the state. Three of the centers are located in buildings owned by the state.
The department maintains there will be no disruption in benefits.
“The department is still operating telephone service centers across Pennsylvania,” Hearthway said. “Plus, claimants are encouraged to use the Internet to file UC claims and to get information they need. We are promoting our ‘Online is Easy’ campaign to let claimants know that filing online is fast, simple, secure and available any time.”
Claimants can visit www.uc.pa.gov
Those without Internet access can call toll-free 888-313-7284. Hours of operation are weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Other service centers are located in Allentown, Altoona, Erie, Lancaster, Scranton, Duquesne, Harrisburg and Indiana.