First-time jobless claims up 56% in Illinois from prior week

Latest report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows the widening impact of coronavirus-related layoffs.

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Amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic and a stay-at-home order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Thompson Center plaza sits empty in the Loop, as seen while looking east on West Randolph Street from the roof of City Hall, during the Wednesday morning commute, April 1, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Thompson Center plaza sits empty in the Loop.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Initial unemployment claims in Illinois filed the week of March 28 rose 56% from the previous week, reflecting massive layoffs from the economic shutdown due to the coronavirus.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security counted 178,421 initial claims for jobless benefits for the last full week in March, compared with 114,114 for the week ending March 21. In turn, that number was up 950% from the week of March 14.

In the same end-of-March week last year, there were just 9,230 first-time claims.

Analysts expect demand for unemployment benefits will continue to shoot higher as layoffs spread to different sectors. In addition, numerous people said they couldn’t get through to the state’s online system to register for the benefits.

In response, IDES has said it has increased its digital and call center capacities. The agency also has urged applicants to abide by a filing schedule based on their last name.

Those with last names from letters A-M are asked to file online Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays. Those with the letters N-Z are steered to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Saturdays is for everyone.

Call centers, which operate from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, follow a different schedule. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for letters A-M and Mondays and Wednesdays are for letters N-Z. Fridays are for everyone.

Federal legislation increasing benefit levels and allowing independent contractors, such as Uber drivers, to qualify also are expected to contribute to an ongoing rush of filings.

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