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Local

Weekly state unemployment claims continue to decrease after falling below 100K

Illinois received more than 912,000 initial unemployment claims from March 1 through April 25

A man walks by a closed store during the COVID-19 in Chicago, Thursday, April 30, 2020. Another 3.8 million people filed claims for jobless benefits last week, according to the Labor Department. While that's down from the previous week's 4.4 million, a staggering 30.3 million have applied for unemployment in the six weeks since the coronavirus began taking a wrecking ball to the U.S. job market. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A man walks by a closed store during the COVID-19 in Chicago, Thursday, April 30, 2020. Another 3.8 million people filed claims for jobless benefits last week, according to the Labor Department. While that's down from the previous week's 4.4 million, a staggering 30.3 million have applied for unemployment in the six weeks since the coronavirus began taking a wrecking ball to the U.S. job market. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Illinois residents filed 74,476 claims for unemployment benefits last week, according to preliminary numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor released on Thursday. That’s an about 9% decrease from the revised total of 81,596 for the week ending April 25, according to Illinois Department of Employment Security data.

Last week's total in Illinois was a 63% decrease from the 201,041 total for the week ending April 4, per state data. Total weekly initial filed unemployment claims statewide that were related to COVID-19 started decreasing from that point.

The update comes as the U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that more than 3.1 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, which was 677,000 less from the week ending April 25. That brings the total number of claims nationwide to more than 30 million within the past seven weeks due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Illinois was not among the states with the largest increases or decreases in initial claims for the week ending May 2, nor was it among states with the highest unemployment rates within the country for the week ending April 25, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

However, Illinois received more than 912,000 initial unemployment claims from March 1 through May 2, according to state data. That’s nearly double the total number of initial claims for all of 2019 – which was more than 476,000 – and five times the amount of claims filed in the first two months of the 2008 Great Recession, per state data.

The uptick in claims, which was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses being affected by the state’s stay-at-home order, overloaded the IDES online filing system. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker had said the state’s unemployment filing systems were built a decade ago for fewer claims and it wasn’t able to keep up with spiking unemployment numbers.

IDES officials said in an April 16 news release the unemployment rate rose to 4.6% in March. There were nearly 292,300 civilians who were out of work in March and more than 6 million employed, according to state and federal data.

However, state and federal data focuses on full-time workers and, since many part-time workers may not be eligible for unemployment, it's difficult to know exactly how many workers also are unemployed currently.

State employment security officials have said the IDES website infrastructure has been overhauled, the call center capacity has been expanded, and private partnerships have been secured to expand the capacity in its existing systems and to implement new programs to help Illinoisans out of work.

Those officials also said Tuesday a new application portal will open on Monday through the agency's website for workers who receive 1099 tax forms – otherwise called independent contractors – and have lost work due to COVID-19.

There were 293,948 unemployment claims filed in March – amounting to a more than 1,150% increase in total filed unemployment claims in March 2020 from February 2020 – in northern Illinois according to state data released in April. There were at least three-digit percentage increases in northern Illinois, including Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, La Salle, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Whiteside and Will counties.

DuPage County saw the largest percentage increase – 1,460% – in filed unemployment claims in March from February out of the 16 counties, according to state unemployment data. Ogle County saw the smallest percentage increase – 297% – in filed unemployment claims.

Rebecca Cisco, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, had said unemployment claims numbers by county usually are released in the week following the end of the month. Numbers for April 2020 are expected to be posted on the state's website later Thursday.

As of 10:55 a.m. Thursday, May 7, there was no by-county unemployment data available through the state agency for April 2020.

• This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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