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National jobless claims set record

National jobless claims set record

Late last year, the Albany Public Library posted a job opening for a public information officer posi

Late last year, the Albany Public Library posted a job opening for a public information officer position. It got more than 125 job applications.

“That kind of response is certainly unusual,” said Tim Burke, the city library’s interim director.

However, such a surge in applications is becoming less unusual at a time when the nation is facing pandemic unemployment.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits reached an all-time high. During the week ending Jan. 17, 4.78 million people were receiving unemployment insurance, the highest number on records dating back to 1967.

The ranks of Americans with unemployment claims over the week rose by a surprising 159,000, suggesting that workers are having a harder time re-entering the work force after getting laid off.

Although New York actually experienced a decline in weekly claims — the nation’s third largest, at 12,432 — unemployment continues to weigh on the state.

Unemployment’s strain was apparent in the “embarrassment of riches” in the applicant pool the Albany library received for the public information officer position, Burke said. He said it was not only the allure of working in a library that drove the flood of applications, but “the tough economic times.”

In Schenectady, Ellis Hospital this month has received 4,900 job applications, though it is only looking to fill 100 positions. January’s tally is 51 percent more than the 3,250 applications it received in October.

“It’s driven by the economy. That’s a high number, there’s no question about that. But we only have 100 positions we’re trying to fill,” said Randy Stark, Ellis’ director of human resources.

Other large Capital Region employers, such as Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan in Albany and MVP Health Care in Schenectady, also reported receiving unusually high volumes of job applications. CDPHP’s Web site lists seven job openings while MVP’s site lists 33, most of which are in the information technology field.

“We are seeing a more than usual increase in employment submissions for our various open positions. Additionally, the quality of the people applying for those positions have been a much better match,” said CDPHP Vice President of Human Capital Management Scott Klenk.

Job applications are rising at a time when job postings are declining. Online job postings for positions within 50 miles of Albany took their steepest weekly fall since November during the seven-day period ending Tuesday. Next-Act, an Albany career management and transition firm, tracked 3,500 postings for the week, down 20 percent from the previous seven-day period.

The region had as many as 6,000 postings in December and as few as 3,000 in November. Next-Act President Dan Moran said postings typically decline during the last week of the month, though the growing list of U.S. companies announcing mass layoffs might have caused local employers to take pause and pull back in hiring.

“We’ve seen this cycle before and it should come back,” Moran said of the weekly postings dip.

The nation’s unemployment rate in December rose to a 16-year high of 7.2 percent. The Capital Region’s rate for that month was lower at 5.9 percent but was still a 17-year high, according to federal and state labor agencies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday that employers took 2,275 mass layoff actions in December, resulting in the elimination of 226,117 jobs. Although the number of layoffs decreased by 58 from the previous month, the number of workers affected by them rose by 478.

Since December, the pace seems to have accelerated, with rapid-fire announcements of layoffs by the thousands by major national and international firms.

This week alone, several large companies announced mass layoffs that will likely hit swaths of upstate New York.

Rochester-based Eastman Kodak announced Thursday plans to cut up to 4,500 workers, who represent a fifth of its labor force. Royal Philips Electronics, which owns Philips Medical Systems in Latham, and Target also recently announced restructuring initiatives consisting of the elimination of thousands of jobs. And Home Depot put 7,000 workers on the chopping block.

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