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Delaware unemployment claims fall as future spike anticipated

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Delaware saw more than 6,000 new unemployment claims in the week of April 26-May 2, according to officials. The total claims for the crisis have doubled all of those in 2019. | PHOTO BY TIM MOSSHOLDER/UNSPLASH

WILMINGTON – Delaware saw its fifth consecutive week of declining unemployment claim filings as the state prepared to allow more businesses to reopen in a limited fashion, but a spike is likely on the horizon.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s weekly update on claims showed that 6,183 initial claims were filed the week ending May 2, adding to the nearly 79,000 claims that had been filed in the first six weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of those 85,059 job losses were spurred by Gov. John Carney’s mandated closure of many businesses aimed to stem the spread of the virus that has infected 5,939 people and killed 202 as of May 6.

The unprecedented totals in unemployment claims has doubled last year’s total but may not be representative of how many workers are unemployed permanently, as employers statewide utilize temporary furloughs to cut expenses.

The figures show that about 17% of Delaware’s workforce has filed an unemployment claim during the crisis, although some of those claims were denied, some of the workers have returned to their jobs and others likely will be starting Friday when the state lifts some restrictions on commerce.

According to the federal data, 56,248 state workers are receiving unemployment insurance payments from the state as of last week, an increase of more than 11,000 from the prior week. The insured unemployed data represents a state unemployment rate of nearly 12%.

A fresh wave of unemployment claims may be coming next week, however, as self-employed workers and independent contractors will be able to file claims for the first time beginning May 11 under expanded eligibility guidelines established by the federal CARES Act. Despite federal unemployment aid being extended to them in March, such workers, who don’t pay into the state’s unemployment trust fund to be insured against job losses, haven’t been able to tap into relief funds because of a lack of a state system to verify their incomes.

Delaware Labor Secretary Cerron Cade previously told Delaware Business Times that his department is expecting at least 12,000 denied self-employed applicants to reapply when the new system is online, with even more expected to participate in the new system.

Those workers will be eligible for payments ranging from $733 to $1,000 per week, depending on proof of income documentation, the Delaware Department of Labor reported.

That wave of assistance seekers has overwhelmed the manpower of the department and required federal stimulus funds to bolster the depleted state Unemployment Trust Fund, which has reportedly paid out $140 million in claims through the crisis. A historic weekly high for payments has been about $3 million.

By Jacob Owens

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