81,000 Illinoisans file new unemployment claims

(The Center Square) – More than 81,000 Illinoisans successfully applied for unemployment benefits through the state last week.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 81,245 laid off Illinois workers were added to the state’s unemployment rolls for the week ending on April 18.

That’s a drop of 21,691 from the week prior.

The government-mandated shutdown of businesses deemed non-essential has left the state’s economy in paralysis but public health officials insist that it’s working to slow the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus they say has killed 2,215 as of Thursday morning.

The number of unemployment claims is expected by economists to spike next month, when thousands of contract, self-employed, part-time and gig workers are able to apply for benefits.

“As states begin the process of reopening and Americans return to work, today’s unemployment report reflects once again the hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said Thursday.

“The President’s actions and policies will continue to support American workers during this crisis. All 50 states are now delivering the $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit provided by the CARES Act. The Department has disbursed more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to States to help them deliver this relief as quickly as possible as Americans follow the guidance of public health officials to ‘slow the spread.’ Looking ahead, as workplaces reopen, we must ensure that individuals transition from unemployment back into the workforce.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked Wednesday about whether he plans to allow regions of Illinois seeing minimal COVID-19 cases to reopen on a limited basis.

“We’re keeping an eye on those areas but I 100 percent agree with the idea that where it is safe and where there is more distance for people and where we can open businesses that don’t force people to congregate together in larger groups than 10 at a time, we want to do that,” he said.

He also said there is a difficulty in allowing some businesses like salons to reopen when the very nature of their business violates social distancing guidance.

“It is hard, in businesses where people are going to be face-to-face or very close to one another in providing a certain service,” Pritzker said. “There’s no social distancing that can be done in that circumstance.”

Over the past six weeks, about 30.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits because of stay-at-home orders in response to the novel coronavirus.

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