Coronavirus updates

Unemployment claims continue to hit record highs

Staff report

The Vermont Department of Labor received 40,000-50,000 unemployment claims in the last two weeks of March.

“That’s the same number of claims that we typically get in a year,” DOL spokesperson Kyle Thweatt said.

Tens of thousands of unemployment claims have yet to be processed, he added.

The surge is expected to continue this week when filings from the week ending April 4 are announced, Thursday, April 9.

The surge is an historic high water mark that surpasses records going back decades.

The official DOL report released Thursday, April 2, showed 14,633 claims had been processed from Vermonters the last two week of March — a dramatic surge that represents a 286% increase over the previous week—but the department estimated the true number was closer to 50,000.

Interim Commissioner of Labor Michael Harrington told reporters that “a massive number of individuals out there are doing everything they can, whether it be online or by phone, to contact the department, we recognize that we are working extremely hard to make sure that we are in contact with those people.”

“Checks were sent out Friday and we’ve made over 17,000 payments in the past week or two,” Harrington said Monday, April 6 at a press conference. “We’re processing them as quickly as possible, there is not ‘standard’ timeline anymore.”

Vermont is not alone in its high unemployment numbers. The United States Department of Labor reported 6.6 million processed unemployment claims the last week of March, following another 3.3 million filed the week prior.

It’s still too soon to say for certain how the claims will translate to the total unemployment rate for the month, Thweatt said. Since April numbers only reflect the rate up to mid-March, the full effects of COVID-19 won’t be seen until May.

However, if all of this month’s claimants are truly unemployed, that’d be an estimated 12% to 15% unemployment — the highest rate in at least 44 years, according to Vermont DOL data.

The Vermont DOL also published last week’s breakdown of claims by industry. Over three-quarters of claims for the week of March 21 came from service industry workers, compared to about 44% of claims for the equivalent time period last year.

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