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Delaware sees another 13K file for unemployment

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Delaware saw more than 13,000 new unemployment claims in the week of April 5-11, according to officials. | PHOTO BY TIM MOSSHOLDER/UNSPLASH

WILMINGTON – The record number of unemployment filers continues to grow in Delaware, as more than 13,000 workers filed claims in the week ending April 11.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s weekly update on claims showed that 13,272 initial claims were filed last week, adding to the more than 48,700 claims that had been filed in the first three weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. That means more than 62,000 have filed for state assistance after Gov. John Carney mandated the closure of many businesses in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus that has infected more than 2,000 people and killed 46 as of Wednesday.

The state reported slightly different numbers Thursday than those released by the federal department, with 13,258 claims filed in the last week and totaling 61,828 through the crisis. The Delaware Department of Labor removes from its statistics Delawareans who are being paid by other states’ unemployment funds due to working out of state, or so-called interstate claims. The state’s March report on unemployment is scheduled to be released Friday.

In all of 2019, the state labor department processed about 37,000 claims, according to state Labor Secretary Cerron Cade. It means that the impact of the crisis has the possibility of doubling last year’s total unemployment filings.

Thursday’s figures show that more than 12.5% of Delaware’s workforce has filed for unemployment since the crisis began, roughly matching nationwide statistics. Another roughly 18,500 people were already unemployed as of February, according to state data.

That wave of assistance seekers has overwhelmed the manpower of the Delaware Department of Labor and is quickly depleting the state Unemployment Trust Fund as it awaits federal help. Cade told state lawmakers last week that additional funding for unemployment should arrive later this month from the federal stimulus packages.

Meanwhile, employers large and small are left debating whether to remain open if legally able, and whether to furlough or layoff staff through the crisis when the workers would be eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits due to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress last month.

While 2,300 layoffs were identified under the Delaware Workplace Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which covers employers of 100 or more, in the early days of the crisis, such reports have declined in recent weeks. In a sole update from April 9, Koons Lexus of Wilmington reported a layoff of 61 employees. Car dealerships were initially required to close as a “non-essential” business by Carney, but his administration later revised the order to allow car sales by appointment only.

Meanwhile, the WARN law doesn’t cover the thousands who have been laid off or furloughed by small businesses nor does it cover the small business owners themselves though.

Delaware businesses that have sought to stay open with federal assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, which awards loans up to $10 million for eight weeks of payroll costs as well as some property costs, may be on the outside looking in. A U.S. Small Business Administration report this week showed that Delaware ranked last of all 50 states in terms of loan approvals and aggregate value, and the $349 billion fund approved by Congress may already be exhausted.

A Delaware Prosperity Partnership/state chambers of commerce survey of 419 employers after Carney’s non-essential business closures found that 34% of respondents reported job losses totaling about 1,700 jobs, with about half coming from the accommodation and food service industry.

About 37% of respondents reported closing their businesses, while those who remained open reported operating at about 61% capacity.

Perhaps most worrisome for the long-term economic recovery, 83% reported decreases in revenue, and increase of 11 percentage points from a survey taken before the governor mandated non-essential closures. Losses have been steepest in sectors most directly affected by business closures, but all industries reported notable revenue decreases between 20% and 60%.

By Jacob Owens

[email protected]

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