Unemployment claims reach a new high in Iowa

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Unemployment documents from the Iowa Workforce Development office. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

For the third week in a row, the number for first-time unemployment claims reported by Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) set a new record. For the week ending April 4, IWD received 67,334 first-time claims, an increase of 8,881 from the 58,453 that were filed during the week ending March 28.

For the first time since unemployment claims began reflecting the impact of COVID-19 in Iowa, accommodation and food services was not the sector of the economy filing the greatest number of first-time unemployment claims. It was replaced by health care and social assistance, which saw an increase of 95 percent in initial claims over the previous week.

For the week ending April 4, IDW reported the following the breakdown of first-time claims.

• Health Care and Social Assistance (9,632)

• Manufacturing (9,218)

• Retail Trade (8,088)

• Accommodation and Food Services (7,123)

• Construction (2,696)

Nationwide, 6.6 million workers filed first-time unemployment claims during the week ending April 4. The number was slightly below the previous week’s record-setting number. Over a three-week period, more than 17 million first-time unemployment claims have been filed in the United States.

Between the week ending March 21 and the week ending April 4, the total number of first-time unemployment claims filed in Iowa was 167,587.

The stimulus bill Congress passed on March 27 to help address the economic impact of COVID-19 extends the maximum period of unemployment benefits. In Iowa, that will mean unemployed workers will be able to collect benefits for 39 weeks instead of 26 weeks. The federal government will also supplement unemployment benefits by providing an extra $600 per claimant.

The stimulus bill also expanded the categories of people who qualify for unemployment benefits. Self-employed individuals, workers at nonprofit organizations, gig workers and other independent contractors now qualify.

Since unemployment benefits are administered by the states, it’s up to state agencies to implement the changes included the stimulus bill. On Monday, IDW issued a statement saying it is still working to update its computer systems, but that process should be completed next week. Then it will be able to process claims in accordance with the newly expanded federal rules.

Anyone needing information about filing for unemployment can find it on IWD’s site. The agency has also posted a FAQ specifically for people whose employment status has been affected by COVID-19.

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