HELENA — Applications for temporary unemployment assistance in Montana declined for the sixth straight week as the state is reopening its economy after coronavirus-related closures, the U.S. Employment and Training Administration said Thursday.
The number of new applications during the week ending of May 16 fell to 3,384, a decrease of 10% from the previous week, but an increase of 442.3% from the number of applications submitted the same week last year.
Since March 14, Montana has processed 101,601 new claims for unemployment, including more than 21,000 during the week ending on April 4. The total represents 22.3% of the Montana workers who are eligible for the unemployment insurance program. The totals do not include gig workers, who can receive federal unemployment payments.
With people returning to work as businesses reopened over the past three weeks, the state’s unemployment rate as of May 16 was 10.5%, according to the Tax Foundation. The unemployment rate was 4.2% in February, before the economic shutdowns put in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The state Department of Labor and Industry issued over 53,000 unemployment payments totaling over $55 million last week. Those payments include regular unemployment, the extra $600 weekly offered under federal coronavirus relief funding and federal payments to gig workers.
The state added one new case of COVID-19 from among nearly 800 tests run on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total cases to 479. The Yellowstone County case involved a man in his 40s, the state health department said.
Montana has 23 active cases, including a cluster of eight cases in Ravalli County. Three people are hospitalized and 16 people have died from the respiratory virus, officials said.
Gov. Steve Bullock has announced the state will enter its second phase of reopening the economy on June 1, including lifting a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors and the possible opening of Montana’s three gates to Yellowstone National Park.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.