Unemployment up, more virus-related claims recorded

Unemployment up, more virus-related claims recorded

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – More than 77,500 Alabamians filed initial unemployment claims last week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. Of the 77,515 total claims, 71,374 were related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate went from 2.7% in February to 3.5% in March, according to information released by labor today. But the department warned that the new number doesn’t capture most of the damage done by the coronavirus. That information will be reflected in the April rate released next month. The 3.5% compares to 3.3% in March 2019.

While still at very high levels, the number of initial unemployment claims last week has decreased slightly from the previous two weeks. The week of March 22-28 saw 80,984 unemployment claims made and the week of March 29 – April 4 saw an all-time high of 106,739 initial claims filed.To assist those seeking unemployment benefits, the department announced a new online tool to allow claimants to track their unemployment claim through the process. The tool informs claimants on the status of their claim, what the next steps are, when to expect payment and any benefits already received. The tool can be accessed on the department’s website at www.labor.alabama.gov.

“We have been working constantly to come up with innovative ways to help Alabamians get the answers they need during this period of uncertainty,” said Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said in a news release. “We hope that this tool will help people find the information they need without them having to spend hours trying to contact us. We continue to urge patience as we are dealing with record numbers of unemployment compensation claims.”

Jefferson County led the state with 10,709 claims, followed by Mobile County with 7,019, Madison County with 5,501, Montgomery County with 4,407, Baldwin County with 3,750 and Tuscaloosa County with 3,617.

Broken down by industry sector, manufacturing had 11,608 claims, accommodation and food services had 7,796, retail had 7,149, health care and social assistance had 6,840, and administrative support, waste management and remediation services had 6,003. However, the largest block came from workers in the unclassified, or industry not available, section with 26,532.