Idaho unemployment claims jump again amid COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 1:34 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 12:51:08-04

BOISE, Idaho — Another 31,000 Idaho residents filed for unemployment benefits last week, as the state economy shed thousands of jobs for the third consecutive week.

The Idaho Department of Labor said nearly 78,000 people have filed claims since mid-March.

Republican Gov. Brad Little issued an emergency declaration on March 13 because of the virus, and followed with a statewide stay-at-home order on March 25.

The Labor Department said workers of all ages are being affected in the latest round of layoffs, with hard-hit sectors including accommodations, food services, health care and construction. Those categories accounted for 57 percent of the layoffs for the week from March 29 to Saturday.

Payouts for unemployment insurance claims for the week ending March 28 totaled $5.6 million and went to more than 19,000 people, Department officials said.

The agency said the best way to file a claim is online, as high call volume is leading to long wait times with some callers unable to get through.

The latest numbers are a big contrast compared with the first two-and-a-half months of the year, when unemployment filings averaged 146 a day and the unemployment rate hovered around 3 percent. The agency didn’t include an unemployment rate in its latest information because numbers are changing so quickly.

Little on Tuesday ordered the creation of a committee to oversee Idaho’s $1.25 billion share of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue package approved by Congress last month. The Idaho Labor Department said it has been working with the federal government to put in place provisions for using money from the package.

About 55 percent of businesses in Idaho are considered essential under Little’s stay-at-home order, and many of those are hiring, including grocery stores and drug stores, officials said.

Idaho has more than 1,230 virus cases and eighteen deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The coronavirus is mainly spread through coughs and sneezes. For most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

(by Keith Ridler, Associated Press)