More than five million people filed initial unemployment claims in the last week, according to new data from the Department of Labor.
Last week, the Labor Department reported that for the second week in a row, 6.6. million people filed initial claims for unemployment, with the new report adding 5.2 million. In the last four weeks, 22 million people have filed unemployment claims.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced thousands of non-essential businesses to lay off millions of workers as social distancing guidelines are implemented to prevent the spread of the disease.
President Donald Trump promised to release details Thursday about his plan to lift social distancing guidelines and “reopen” the economy in the coming weeks.
Locally there have been at least 2 million tri-state area unemployment claims, with hundreds of thousands more applying just last week in New York and New Jersey and tens of thousands more more in Connecticut.
The true story continues to be the many who want to apply for benefits but cannot complete their applications due to outdated and overloaded state systems.
It has been especially frustrating for freelancers and the self-employed. Those categories of workers normally would not be able to seek unemployment, but under the congressional coronavirus relief bill, they are allowed.
However, the U.S. Department of Labor and their state counterparts have been disagreeing about how to even process those types of claims.
The federal government said states should not deny regular unemployment first, and allow people to directly access special pandemic unemployment insurance.
But the New York Department of Labor said it needs to first deny regular unemployment, saying it is the only way to do this without creating a whole new system. The denials alone take weeks to process.
Thursday, New York Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, who has been handling unemployment issues on behalf of the Cuomo Administration, admitted this has been a trouble spot.
“We are working to try and figure out the best way to expedite this,” she said. “It’s great the system has worked better for some, but if it’s not working for you, I sympathize and understand and apologize for that.”
DeRosa and other state leaders continue to stress that the volume of unemployment claims is unprecedented, many times greater than during the recession 12 years ago.