HELENA — Montana’s unemployment claims are surging as some businesses have closed and others have reduced services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Montana received just over 14,000 applications for unemployment benefits in the week ending March 21, a nearly 1,700% increase over the previous week and a 1,917% increase over the same week a year ago, officials said Thursday.
The numbers were released the day after the U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion economic relief deal, which would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and help small businesses pay employees who are forced to stay home.
Nationally, 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week. the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.
According to data provided by Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry, an average of 52 people a day filed new unemployment claims from March 3 to March 15. A significant increase in claims began March 16, three days after the state’s first coronavirus cases were confirmed.
From March 16 to March 24 the average number of daily new claims rose to 1,995, including a high of 3,346 on March 20. That day, Gov. Steve Bullock announced the closure of businesses where people congregate, including gyms and theaters and restricted on-premise food and drink consumption at restaurants and bars.
The total new unemployment claims from March 16-24 was nearly 18,000, the state agency reported.
In January, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment numbers listed 18,678 people as being unemployed in Montana.
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