The 11.7 million Americans still unemployed are finding their wallets getting even lighter as the sequester federal spending cuts kick in.
While the mandated decreases have been slow to trickle into the real economy, the unemployed are feeling perhaps the first big jolt.
As of July 1, the average weekly benefit of $289 will fall by $43 a week, adding pressure at a time when the labor market is trying to find its bearings but has yet to generate the kind of employment that would indicate a strong recovery.
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Sharon MacGregor, a 43-year-old graphic designer by trade, lost her job about a year ago when the medical education company she worked for went under. Since then, she's struggled to find work and now has to contend with even less unemployment compensation.
"It's horrible, I never thought it would be like this when I got let go," she said. "I've been laid off before and found a job in a couple of months. I thought I'd be fine."
MacGregor joins the ranks of 120,100 unemployment insurance recipients in New Jersey who will see their average compensation drop 22.2 percent, according to the National Employment Law Project.
The current typical unemployment insurance check for the Garden State runs $382, but will be reduced by $85.
As she traverses the rough unemployment terrain, MacGregor finds herself bartering for services at the hair and nail salon and counting on her Christian faith to get her through.
"I believe in God. I'm keeping my patience. For me, that's how I get by," she said. "Something definitely needs to be done."
The cuts have come about as Congress debates how to handle the spending cuts mandated after it failed to reach a deficit-reduction deal last year.
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