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Local

Almost 73,000 unemployment claims filed in the past week in Illinois

Update comes after national unemployment rate rose to worst since Great Depression

A woman looks at signs at a store closed due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A woman looks at signs at a store closed due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The number of initial Illinois unemployment benefits claims keeps going down week over week since Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order began in March – but the number still remains high in comparison to last year.

State residents filed 72,993 claims for unemployment benefits last week, according to preliminary numbers released Thursday from the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s a 2% decrease from the revised total of 74,476 for the week ending May 2, per Illinois Department of Employment Security data.

According to state data for the week ending May 2, the number of initial unemployment claims in Illinois was still nearly 700% more than it was last year around the same time.

The update comes after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week the national unemployment rate for April rose to 14.7% – which was the worst it has been since the Great Depression during the 1930s. The April rate was also the most sudden increase since the bureau started keeping the statistic in 1948, with the number of civilians with jobs falling by 20.5 million between March and April.

Last week's total in Illinois was a 64% 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.

Illinois was not among the states with the largest increases or decreases in initial claims, nor was it among states with the highest unemployment rates within the country for the week ending May 9, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

However, Illinois received more than 1 million initial unemployment claims from March 1 through May 2, according to a May 7 IDES news release. That’s double the total number of initial claims for all of 2019 – which was more than 476,000 – and nearly six times the amount of claims filed in the first two months of the 2008 Great Recession, per state data.

IDES officials said in an April 16 news release the unemployment rate rose to 4.6% in March, following a record low at 3.4% in February. 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 said May 5 a new application portal is now open through the agency's website for workers who receive 1099 tax forms – otherwise called independent contractors – and have lost work due to COVID-19. The portal has been open since Monday.

Rebecca Cisco, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, wrote in a May 7 email those workers should first file for regular unemployment benefits before filing for the state's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, program.

"Being denied regular benefits is the first step in determining eligibility for a PUA claim," Cisco wrote.

To file an unemployment claim through the State of Illinois and to view instructions on how to do so, visit www2.illinois.gov/ides.

In April, there were 372,220 unemployment claims filed within the Shaw Media Illinois coverage area in northern Illinois, according to by-county unemployment data from the state. That amounted to a nearly 27% increase in total filed unemployment claims in April from March within northern Illinois, including Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, La Salle, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Whiteside and Will counties.

Putnam County saw the largest percentage increase – nearly 51% – in filed unemployment claims in April from March out of the 16 counties, according to state unemployment data. Grundy County saw the smallest percentage increase – nearly 2% – in filed unemployment claims.

By comparison, there were 293,948 unemployment claims filed in March – amounting to a more than 1,150% increase in total filed unemployment claims in March from February – in northern Illinois, according to state data released in April. There were at least three-digit percentage increases in filed unemployment claims among the 16 counties.

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

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

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