Last week, Iowa paid unemployment claims to 128,819 workers, or 8.1% of the state’s workforce.
More than 93,000 out-of-work Iowans this week began receiving additional unemployment payments with their jobless benefits, a boost that was included in a federal stimulus package signed into law in late March.
In all, 93,546 Iowans who have lost jobs due to the novel coronavirus outbreak received the additional $600 weekly benefit, which will be available through July 31, according to Iowa Workforce Development. This week, nearly $61 million from the federal aid was paid to jobless Iowans.
The benefits, retroactive to March 29, were part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Iowa is among 29 states that have begun distributing the extra benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Since mid-March, thousands of Iowa businesses have been ordered closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, a serious respiratory illness. In Iowa, 1,995 people have tested positive for the virus that causes the disease, and 53 have died.
The forced business closures have meant record numbers of people seeking unemployment benefits, nationally and in Iowa.
During the week that ended April 11, 46,356 Iowans filed first-time unemployment claims, according to newly released state data. Since the mid-March forced business closures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, 214,003 Iowans have filed initial unemployment claims.
Overall, 128,819 Iowans, or 8.1% of the state’s 1.58 million workers, filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the state.
Last week, Iowa paid unemployment claims totaling more than $37.8 million, the highest weekly amount paid since the start of the crisis. Since the week ending March 21, Iowa has paid nearly $90 million in unemployment claims, records show. The state’s unemployment compensation trust fund’s balance on Jan. 1 was $1.26 billion, according to a federal report.
Nationally, 5.2 million new unemployment claims were filed last week, down from the previous week when more than 6.6 million new claims were filed, according to the Labor Department. The advance seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the week ending April 4 was 8.2%, according to the department.
Since mid-March in Iowa, nearly 20%, or 37,298, of the newly jobless workers had been employed in the restaurant, bar and lodging industries, records show. Another 17%, or 28,847, of the newly jobless had worked in health care and social assistance, and 13%, or 22,388, in manufacturing. In addition, nearly 13%, or 21,499, of the newly jobless worked in retail.
The record number of telephone calls from jobless Iowans is overwhelming Iowa Workforce Development’s call center, state officials have said. The agency had about 250 workers who answered calls before the outbreak. In the past month, an additional 49 temporary workers have been hired and are being trained.
In addition, 11 workers from the Iowa Utilities Board and Iowa Lottery will begin working temporarily in the call center after they complete training, Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend told the Business Record. Iowa Workforce Development will pay the state workers’ salaries during the training and the hours they work for the call center. The agency will also provide the needed equipment so the workers can work from home, she said.
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Related: Iowa’s unemployment trust fund down 10% since start of year