The Iowa Department of Workforce Development is busy trying to notify Iowans that might be eligible for extended unemployment benefits. President Bush signed a seven week extension into law last week. I.W.D. spokesperson Kerry Koonce says the extension is welcome relief as the state’s economy begins to soften.

"We are seeing some slow down in some industries," Koonce said. "We have had two months of job losses, although the state still added over 5,700 jobs over the year. We are starting to see some job cutting in the durable good and heavy manufacturing areas, so these benefits are important for those individuals."

Iowa’s unemployment rate stands at 4.4%, up from 3.8% one year ago. Koonce says the benefits extension will help a lot of people. "It’s really necessary when you’re looking at the national economy as a whole that’s had some downturn and we have some more people unemployed than usual and this provides them with an economic safety net that is really needed, especially this time of year," Koonce said.

Iowans currently receiving unemployment benefits will automatically be eligible for the seven week extension. Meanwhile, Iowans that had exhausted their previous benefits should contact their local I.W.D. office to file a new claim. Koonce says the maximum benefit for an unemployed person with no dependents is $361 a week with two dependents it’s $389 a week.