BOSTON (State House News Service) — Workers accounting for nearly one-third of the Massachusetts labor force have filed initial unemployment claims since March 15, according to state data released late Thursday.
Hours after Gov. Charlie Baker talked about the "economic calamity" that has struck Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that another 38,081 workers submitted new applications for traditional unemployment insurance between May 10 and May 16. The office also reported 115,952 more claims last week for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance created by Congress to extend benefits to previously ineligible individuals, such as gig workers and the self-employed.
Since March 15, the two programs have seen a combined 1.23 million initial claims in Massachusetts. If state officials find each claim to be valid, that would represent 32.9 percent of the labor force in March.
Massachusetts is outstripping the national trend. Nationwide, the more than 43 million total claims since March 15 would be about 26.2 percent of the labor force. However, not all states have begun accepting applications for the expanded PUA program, which has been in place in Massachusetts for more than a month.
Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a plan Monday to begin reviving business activity through a gradual, phased-in approach, hoping to alleviate some of the widespread strain caused by forced shutdowns without sparking a rebound in cases of a virus that has killed more than 6,000 Bay Staters in just two months.
A clearer picture of the state's dire economic straits will emerge Friday, when state labor officials release total job losses experienced in April as well as the monthly unemployment rate. Prior to the pandemic, the state was operating at roughly full employment, with a March unemployment rate of 2.9 percent.
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
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