Unemployment claims in Illinois continue to soar as more residents lose their jobs or are furloughed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to federal and state data.
According to Thursday, April 2 data from the U.S. Department of Labor, there have been more than 178,000 claims filed for unemployment benefits during the week ending on March 28. That's a more than 50% increase in claims compared to the more than 114,000 claims made for the week ending on March 21, according to Illinois Department of Employment Security data.
There were more than 36,000 claims for unemployment benefits filed for the entire month of March 2019, according to Illinois Department of Employment Security data.
Rebecca Cisco, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, confirmed final numbers from the state were to be updated on the department's website later on Thursday. The previously reported Illinois unemployment numbers for the week ending in March 28 were "preliminary numbers from the U.S. [Department of Labor]," she said.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported there were 178,133 initial claims filed during the week ending March 28. As of noon Thursday, Illinois state data said there were 178,421 initial claims filed.
Cisco did not immediately respond to additional request for comment from Shaw Media Illinois on Thursday.
U.S. Department of Labor officials said in the Thursday news release that Illinois was among the states with the highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending March 14, with a 2.1% unemployment rate. Other states within that category included Alaska at 2.8%, Connecticut at 2.7%, New Jersey at 2.6%, California at 2.4%, Massachusetts at 2.3%, Minnesota at 2.3%, Rhode Island at 2.3%, Montana at 2.2%, Pennsylvania at 2.2%, and West Virginia at 2.1%, according to the release.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a Thursday statement that, similar to last week’s unemployment claims numbers, the Thursday report reflects sacrifices American workers are making for their families, neighbors and country in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. He said administration continues action in addressing the impact on workers.
Scalia said in the Thursday statement those actions include a rule the federal labor department adopted on Wednesday to implement paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. He said in the statement that also includes the department’s work with states to make available those enhanced unemployment benefits provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, which President Donald Trump signed last week.
"That legislation also contains significant incentives for businesses to retain workers and continue paying them, which will put businesses and workers in a better position to resume work and re-boot the economy once the virus is contained,” Scalia said in the Thursday statement.
The update comes after Illinois employment security department officials announced on March 26 that unemployment numbers in the state of Illinois in March were almost five times higher than they were at that point last year. In Illinois, unemployment claims as of March 26 totaled to 133,763 compared to 27,493 over the same period in 2019.
The economic deterioration has been swift. As recently as February, the U.S. unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3.5% and the economy was growing steadily if modestly. Yet by the April-June quarter of the year, some economists think the economy will shrink at its steepest annual pace ever — a contraction that could reach 30%.
Cisco said monthly unemployment claims data separated by county for last month will be made available early next week. She said that by-county unemployment claim data from the state is embargoed until then because the state must first receive and confirm numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor.
• This story will be updated as more information becomes available.