Pennsylvania's jobless call centers try to cut phone wait

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HARRISBURG -- Starting Monday, callers to the state's unemployment compensation call centers will be asked to contact the centers on a specific day, based on the last digit of their Social Security numbers.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry announced Thursday it is aiming to more evenly distribute call volume to its service centers.

Call volume tends to spike on Mondays, compared to other days of the week; by making the change it hopes to reduce call wait time.

Call volume varies by season, but the centers get two to three times as many calls on Monday compared to Friday during any given week, said Sara Goulet, a spokeswoman for the department.

Claimants with a Social Security number ending in an odd number will now be asked to call the service centers on Mondays; those with a Social Security number ending in an even number should call Tuesdays.

The department said this is based on procedures similar to other states.

Call centers will continue to accept calls from everyone on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

An advocacy group for the unemployed said the change could be helpful, but may not entirely fix the problem of long wait times for claimants.

Ed Ehrhardt, chief legal officer for the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee, said the organization specifically instructs claimants when to call, based on the lengthy wait times they can face.

"We tell people to call in the mornings -- and be prepared to wait," said Mr. Ehrhardt.

Callers can be waiting as long as a couple of hours, he said.

If claimants call a center when it is not their assigned day, they will still receive service, according to the department, "but will be encouraged to follow the new system for future contact."

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Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise. First Published October 18, 2013 8:00 PM


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