Christine Stuart photo

As an employee at the Department of Labor’s unemployment call center in Hartford Marsha Tulloch doesn’t take many breaks.

The length of time callers have to wait to speak with Tulloch and her 26 colleagues is noted on an electronic board across the room.

“I put myself in their situation. I have kids. I have a family. And I would want somebody helping out if I was in that situation,” Tulloch said describing her motivation to work at the center, which receives thousands of calls per day.

Tulloch volunteered to come back and work at the call center to help out with the increased volume of calls.

Just yesterday the call center in Hartford received 5,000 calls. The day before it was 4,000. The wait time on a busy day for some of the callers is upwards of 20-minutes, however, Thursday afternoon’s call volume was around 440 seconds, or seven and a half minutes.

“It’s just getting worse and worse,” Carol Carney, a supervisor who has been with the Department of Labor for 37 years said. She said everybody who works at the center feels the stress of the unemployed. “The stress of knowing there are people waiting,” makes the employees want to stay at their desks and answer the calls, which they do from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., she said. 

A new report out Thursday showed Connecticut’s jobless numbers climbed to 6.6 percent for the month of November. That’s a loss of about 5,100 jobs.

“A lot of people recently laid off have never filed before,” Tulloch said.

Many also want to know if Congress plans on extending unemployment benefits again.

US Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, who toured the call center in Hartford Thursday said he’s working to get the federal government to help the state beef up staffing at its two call centers. He said since the federal government extended unemployment benefits, it makes sense for it to help the state out.

Carney said while there used to be 86 employees working in the state’s two call centers, now there’s just 51 employees to handle the increasing volume of calls.

And a report by Connecticut Voices for Children released Thursday found that long-term unemployment – the percentage of unemployed workers who have been without work for more than 26 weeks – is higher in Connecticut at 20.3 percent than the 17.6 percent national average.

Before Tulloch walked away from her desk for an interview, she said she just got off the phone with a gentleman who wanted to know if unemployment benefits would be extended again because he just four checks shy of losing the benefit.