Last week, 28,827 Iowans filed first-time jobless claims, an increase over the previous week

Since mid-March, 262,651 Iowans have filed first-time unemployment claims, according to Iowa Workforce Development. The graph shows the number of new claims filed by job sector between March 21 and April 25. Source: Iowa Workforce Development

The number of Iowans who continued to file jobless claims climbed to 170,990 last week, a sign the state will likely see high unemployment for at least the next few months, a top state official said during a Business Record forum on the workforce.

“The number that I continue to watch is the number of continuing claims recorded each week, and as long as that number continues to increase or remain as high as it is right now, that’s a good indication that our unemployment is going to be with us for an extended period of time,” Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said during this week’s forum. 

Townsend added that because the sharp spike in unemployment occurred quickly, the recovery could also be quick. “But that remains to be seen,” she said. 

Unemployment data released today shows that 28,827 Iowans filed initial unemployment claims for the week that ended on Saturday. The number is a 7% hike over the initial claims filed the previous week.

In addition, 170,990 Iowans continued to receive unemployment insurance, a 12.6% increase from the previous week, data released by Iowa Workforce Development shows.

In all, 199,817 Iowans were unemployed last week, 12.6% of the 1.58 million workers the state agency reported were employed in February.

The number of jobless Iowans has reached record levels because of the ordered shutdown of many businesses in an effort to slow the novel coronavirus, which causes a serious respiratory illness. Through Wednesday, 7,145 Iowans have tested positive for the virus; 162 have died. 

On Friday, some businesses in 77 Iowa counties will be allowed to reopen as long as strict safety protocols are followed.

Dave Swenson, an Iowa State University economist, said that even though some segments of the state’s economy are reopening, recovering will likely be slow.

“Before we work our way out of this, unemployment is expected to be up and stay up much of this year,” Swenson said during the forum on Iowa’s workforce. “We don’t know particularly which industries are going to react, how [they’ll react] and when they’ll react as a consequence of the [pandemic]. … Watching what happens over the next few months will give us some insights as to what to expect.”

Consumer confidence in the economy will help dictate how many jobless Iowans return to the workplace, he said. The U.S. gross domestic product – the value of all finished goods and services made – declined 4.8% in the first quarter.

The decline was caused mostly by a drop in consumer spending, Swenson said.

“We need to pay attention … to the capacity of consumers to buy and to participate like they used to in the economy,” he said. If products and services aren’t being purchased, employers won’t recall laid-off workers, he said.

Since mid-March, 261,640 Iowans have filed first-time jobless claims, state data shows. 

Hardest hit have been those who worked in the hotel and food service sectors. State data shows that 42,034, or 16%, of first-time jobless claims have been from those sectors. Another 37,022 initial claims were from the health care and social assistance sectors.

Some from the health care industry could soon begin returning to work. This week, health care providers could resume some elective surgeries and procedures through a phased-in approach.

Also today, Iowa Workforce Development reported that:
– $51.4 million in jobless benefits was paid out of the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund during the week that ended April 25.
– $102.7 million was paid to 153,951 Iowans from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund that was part of the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package. Since April 4, $327.7 million in additional benefits has been paid to Iowans from the federal fund. The additional benefit is $600 a week.
– $4.8 million has been paid to 13,344 self-employed Iowans through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fund.

Nationally, 3.8 million new unemployment claims were filed last week, down from the previous week when more than 4.4 million new claims were filed, according to the labor department. The advance seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the week ending April 18 was 12.4%, according to the labor department.

File a claim: To file an unemployment claim, click here.
Related: Iowa’s unemployment trust fund down 10% since start of year