By CHRIS S. RUGABER

By CHRIS S. RUGABER


WASHINGTON — Congress is moving to extend unemployment benefits as about 1.3 million of the jobless are at risk of running out by the end of this year. But the extra coverage won't initially be available in every state.

Under legislation approved by the House on Tuesday, benefits will be extended by 13 weeks in 27 states with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent, including Oregon. Here are some questions and answers about how the extension of benefits works.

Q: Why is Congress extending unemployment insurance?

A: The labor market is the worst it has been in decades, with about six unemployed workers, on average, competing for every job opening, according to government data. That's up from 1.7 per open job in December 2007, when the recession began.

Long-term unemployment has gotten particularly bad: About one-third of the jobless, or almost 5 million people, have been unemployed for 6 months or longer — just slightly less than the record percentage unemployed that long in July.

As a result, more than 400,000 people are expected to run out of unemployment insurance by the end of this month, according to estimates by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. More than 1.3 million will do so by the end of the year.

Q: I'm about to run out of unemployment benefits — when will the extra 13 weeks kick in?

A: The Senate has to approve the legislation first, and it could make changes.

Under the House bill, recipients in 27 states, including Oregon, California, Idaho and Washington state would immediately benefit.

Q: OK, so how long can people receive unemployment insurance?

A: The states pay for up to 26 weeks under the standard benefit program. The government is paying for a variety of extensions that have added between 20 and 53 weeks of coverage, depending on each state's jobless rate.