60,177 in Capital Region file jobless claims amid COVID crisis

Total represents 11.3% of those employed in eight counties three months ago
The Corning Tower in Albany is seen from the state Capitol Thursday evening.
The Corning Tower in Albany is seen from the state Capitol Thursday evening.

ALBANY — Across the eight-county Capital Region, 60,177  people have filed initial unemployment insurance claims amid the COVID-19 crisis, the state Department of Labor said Thursday.

The total equals 11.3% of the 529,700 people employed in January in the region, which the state defines as Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington counties.

In the week ending April 18, 7,359 claims were filed across the region. That’s less than half the 15,029 filed the week ending April 11, suggesting that the initial wave of people filing claims after being rendered jobless by the shutdown of the economy in mid-March has slowed.

Also factoring into the drop would be improvements to the state’s unemployment administrative system, which became hopelessly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applications and by having to factor in the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The PUA was crippled by federal guidelines that required applicants to first be rejected for regular unemployment before they could qualify for PUA, the state has said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the issue Thursday during his daily briefing on COVID-19, saying New York is well ahead of other states in processing claims and acknowledging that this fact is meaningless to those still awaiting their first check. Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said the federal PUA has been nearly impossible to administer.

“This is an impossible problem that they handed to the states,” she said, though adding it was rectified this week.

DeRosa said the state has paid $2.2 billion in benefits to 1.1 million unemployed New Yorkers so far since the crisis began.

In the six weeks ending April 18, the state has received 1,418,119 claims, compared with just 77,191 in the same period a year earlier. For perspective, the statewide workforce was 9.53 million in January — 9.14 million people employed and 393,000 unemployed.

So the number of people filing for unemployment amid the COVID-19 crisis equals about 15% of the number employed statewide shortly before the crisis.

Some other details from the unemployment claims data compiled for the six weeks ending April 18:

Hardest-hit sectors statewide were accommodation/food services (280,845 claims), retail (192,138), health care/social assistance (155,377), construction (131,202) and administrative/support services (121,635).

In upstate New York, the Capital Region had the third-largest year-over-year increase in claims (1,506%) after the Hudson Valley (1,832%) and Western New York (1,666%). The North Country had the smallest increase in claims (1,013%).

The areas hardest hit by the pandemic also had the greatest year over year increase in unemployment claims — Long Island (2,413%) and New York City (1,893%).

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