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Delaware sees nearly 19K more unemployment claims

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Delaware saw a record of nearly 19,000 new unemployment claims in the week of March 22-28, according to officials. | PHOTO BY TIM MOSSHOLDER/UNSPLASH

DOVER – With an economy that has slowly been closing down amid the coronavirus pandemic, Delaware saw nearly 19,000 new claims for unemployment filed in the week that ended March 28.

That record-setting 18,987 claims pile on top of the previous record of 10,790 claims filed in the week prior, pushing the total number of claims during the virus outbreak to nearly 30,000 in the First State.

The previous one-week record for claims in Delaware was set in 1992 when 4,364 claims were filed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. State officials have said that last week’s more than 10,000 claims already broke the state’s monthly record, exemplifying the speed at which the pandemic has crippled the state’s economy.

The more than 75% increase in state claims are not shocking when compared to the doubling of national claims from a record 3.3 million to 6.6 million in the past week.

The figures released Thursday morning from the U.S. Department of Labor will differ from those later confirmed by the Delaware Department of Labor though, as interstate claims, or those who work in Delaware but live in another state, are parsed out. For instance, the totals from the week of March 15-21 were reported as 10,790 by the federal agency while state officials told Delaware Business Times that 10,720 of those were Delaware residents.

The dramatically high numbers are being pushed higher by federal and state legislation that is opening unemployment benefits to not only affected full-time and part-time workers, but also those who are working fewer hours than normal due to coronavirus-related furloughs or layoffs. “Gig economy” workers are also now finding coverage.

To no surprise, leading the list of state-mandated layoff notices for employers of 100 or more were some of Delaware’s largest restaurant groups, which were prohibited from offering dine-in service under Gov. John Carney’s state of emergency order. Together, they totaled more than 2,200 reported jobs lost, and most, if not all, likely took advantage of relaxed standards for filing for unemployment insurance.

  • Big Fish Restaurant Group, which operates more than a dozen restaurants including Big Fish Grill, Mikimotos, Washington Street Ale House and Torbert Street Social, reported laying off 600 employees.
  • Ashby Hospitality Group, which operates the Deer Park Tavern, three McGlynn’s Pub locations and Cantwell’s Tavern, laid off 457.
  • Platinum Dining Group, which operates Capers & Lemons, Taverna, Redfire Grill and Eclipse Bistro, laid off 408.
  • HMSHost, which operates the Interstate 95 Biden Welcome Center rest stop’s restaurants, reported laying off 267 employees.
  • Grotto’s Pizza, which operates more than a dozen Delaware locations, laid off 165 employees
  • American Bread Company LLC, which operates seven Panera Bread chain locations in the state, laid off 190.

Among smaller restaurants, Ulysses American Gastropub said it laid off 50 employees while La Casa Pasta laid off 46, Six Paupers Restaurant laid off 30, Jake’s Seafood laid off 20, and Go Brit Restaurant and Go Fish Restaurant laid off five each.

The restaurant industry wasn’t the only one to be hit by the wave of layoffs, with Wilmington-based construction firm MDavis reporting that it laid off 105 employees and Wilmington-based online lending startup Market Street Funders reported laying off 17.

The 2,300 reported layoffs come under the Delaware Workplace Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which covers employers of 100 or more, as well as some self-reporting to the state. That 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.

A Delaware State Chamber of Commerce/Delaware Prosperity Partnership survey of 320 employers last month found that 25% of respondents that reported job losses were in the accommodation and food services industry. Other industries that reported notable job losses though were arts, entertainment and recreation; and retail trade. Even the health care sector wasn’t immune during a health crisis, as chiropractors, physical therapists, and dental and eye care professionals reported job losses as routine care offices closed to the public under the state’s stay-at-home order.

By Jacob Owens

[email protected]

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