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Alabama unemployment claims reach historic levels

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Unemployment claims reached levels never before recorded last week, according to the latest numbers from the Alabama Department of Labor.

From March 29 to April 4, 106,739 initial unemployment claims were made, of which 94,047 were related to COVID-19, the ADOL said. That is the highest number of weekly claims ever reported since 1987, when the metric was first tracked.

Job sector information wasn’t available for 36,662 of those new claims, according to ADOL. But 13,962 came from manufacturing, followed by 12,121 in the accommodation and food services industry. Health care and social assistance workers made up 10,483 of the new claims, followed by 10,148 in retail trade.

About a possible continuation of record-breaking claims, department communications director Tara Hutchison said ADOL has seen fewer preliminary claims so far this week than at the same time last week.

“However, it all depends on how long the pandemic lasts and how many other businesses ultimately end up affected,” she said.

Jefferson County leads the state in unemployment claims with 15,839, followed by: Mobile County, 9,171; Madison County, 8,019; Tuscaloosa County, 6,515; and Baldwin County, 5,696.

While there are many whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus, there is some relief on the way.

Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced Thursday that Alabama began paying the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit on Wednesday. The benefit was established with the passing of the federal CARES Act on March 27. Under the legislation, anyone receiving unemployment compensation benefits is eligible for the additional $600 a week stimulus payment. The payment is added to the recipient’s state weekly benefit amount. The maximum weekly state benefit is $275.

“We understand the frustration of many Alabamians who are out of work due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and we know that they need these benefits to stay afloat,” Washington said. “We are working as hard as we can to make sure that everyone gets the benefits they need as quickly as they can. We are one of the first states to begin distributing these funds. We continue to urge patience as the department works to implement this vital legislation.”

The department paid $40,060,495 in FPUC benefits to 60,848 claimants on Wednesday. Eligible claimants whose claims have processed should expect to see the funds within two to three days, if not sooner.

Nationally, more than 6.6 million filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of unemployed claims to 16 million over the past three weeks.

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