Unemployment claims doubled, state says


The State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations tells us it’s seen a significant increase in the number of first-time unemployment claims. There were 639 unemployment claims during the last week of February. But in the second week of March, that number doubled to 1,292.

“We don’t know at this point if they are job losses or just reduction in hours and the claims are due to partial unemployment claims,” said Director Scott Murakami.

We asked if the increases were related to COVID-19.

“It’s hard to say but the assumption I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to make and the reason for that is prior to the Coronavirus, we were seeing historically low unemployment rate level,” he said.

Hawaii’s unemployment rate was at 2.7 percent in January. The state’s primary concern is making sure these claims are processed in a timely manner.

“Unfortunately, we know we are going to need about 28 additional people to come and work throughout the state. We have put in a request to the administration as well as the legislation and they are well aware of our needs,” said Murakami.

Normally an applicant has to wait one week for the benefits but not anymore.

“We will be eliminating the one week waiting period because we know that many in our community will be not working during much of this slow down,” said Governor David Ige.

The Department of Labor says it’s assessing the potential impact of COVID-19 and it’s mirroring its projections after 9-11.

“So we’ve sought additional financial assistance based on what our historical claim rate was on Sept. 11th. We are anticipating claims to go up,” he said.

Currently, the state trust has nearly $594-million to admit unemployment benefits.

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