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State unemployment claims spike due to coronavirus

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Similar to national trends, unemployment claims in Alabama spiked last week due to the new coronavirus.

The Alabama Department of Labor reported 80,984 initial unemployment claims were filed during the week of March 22-28; 74,844 of these claims are COVID-19 related. From March 15-21, a total of 10,982 claims were filed. In all of February, 5,819 claims were made.

According to ADOL, all industries experienced increases with 14,752 coming from the accommodation and food services industry. There were 17,860 unclassified claims and 11,032 in manufacturing. Health care and social assistance saw 6,254 losses and retail trade 4,996.

These numbers are in line with what is happening nationally in regards to unemployment claims. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that more than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment compensation last week, doubling the previous high of 3.3 million for the week of March 15-21.

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Five Alabama counties accounted for almost 46% of all weekly unemployment claims. Jefferson County led the state with 13,603 claims. Mobile County saw 7,068 claims while Madison County had 6,370 claims. Tuscaloosa County had 5,458 claims and Baldwin County had 4,683 claims.

On Tuesday, ADOL encouraged Alabamians who believe they may qualify for programs under the new federal CARES Act to file a claim. ADOL said that while it does not yet have technical guidance or a start date regarding the CARES Act programs, benefits may be paid retroactively from the time the employee separated from his or her job or otherwise became eligible under the federal CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved.

Those who may be affected include:

  • The self-employed
  • Church employees
  • Non-profit and governmental employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig economy workers
  • Those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits.

These employees should also meet one of several conditions, including:

  • The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed;
  • The individual has primary caregiving responsibility for a child who is unable to attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19; 
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; 
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • The individual was scheduled to start work and does not have a job as a result of COVID-19;
  • The individual has to quit their job because of COVID-19; or
  • The individual’s place of employment is closed because of COVID-19.

ADOL said more details about the CARES Act programs will be forthcoming,

Unemployment claims can be filed online at or by calling 1-866-234-5382. ADOL encourages patience to those trying to file a claim.

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