December 09, 2008 5:54 pm
(AP) - The New York state labor department said it is adding staff to avoid being overwhelmed by a surge in calls from people inquiring about government unemployment benefits.
Nearly 826,000 people phoned the department's call centers in November, up from 322,000 during the same month a year earlier.
The big increase resulted in longer wait times or trouble getting through for some callers.
"It's frustrating to them, and we hear it from them, and we're doing something about it," said Department of Labor spokesman Leo Rosales.
Beginning this week, the department is implementing a program to more than double the number of people taking calls.
The department's Tel-Claims call centers in Troy and Endicott currently have 156 employees. They are adding 159 new people, for a total of 315.
The labor department also plans to extend the hours of the centers, although the new times haven't been made final. They are presently open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More than 92,000 New Yorkers filed new claims for unemployment benefits in November, up from about 58,000 during the same month in 2007, the labor department said.
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