States still reporting surge in virus-related jobless claims

(AP) — Some states on Friday continued to report huge spikes in new claims for unemployment benefits after a week of widespread business closures as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

The figures provided to Associated Press reporters provide a more up-to-date look at joblessness than the official weekly unemployment report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

That federal report showed more than 250,000 new unemployment claims were filed nationwide during the week that ended last Saturday, an increase of 25% over the previous week.

The AP reported Wednesday that some states were seeing significantly sharper increases during the first few days of this week, as governors and mayors began encouraging people to stay home and ordering certain businesses to close as a way to limit the spread of the virus.

The U.S. Department of Labor tried to discourage states from releasing those figures.

“State Unemployment Insurance data is regularly embargoed until the national numbers are published on Thursday morning and states are asked not to share their data until that time,” department spokesman Egan Reich said in an email Thursday to the AP. “As a leading economic indicator that has the potential to impact policy decisions and financial markets, it is important to ensure the state Unemployment Insurance data is communicated in a consistent and fair manner.”

Yet some states have continued to release their own figures, a full week before they will officially be distributed by the federal government.

The Kansas labor secretary said during a news conference Friday that the state has received 11,355 initial jobless claims since Sunday, up 524% from the 1,820 it received all of last week.

Michigan said Friday that more than 55,000 people had filed unemployment claims through Wednesday, a 15-fold increase over normal.

Louisiana said more than 30,000 new claims for unemployment assistance had been filed by midday Thursday, up from 1,700 for all of last week.

And Pennsylvania had more than 174,000 new claims from Monday through Wednesday, the only three days for which the state released figures. This week’s claims set a new record, the state said.

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Associated Press writers Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; and Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

 

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