HARRISBURG – The number of people filing unemployment claims in the week ending May 17 dropped below 62,000 for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic prompted the state to close nonessential businesses statewide.
State Labor and Industry data shows the number of claims has dropped to 61,864 in the period.
That’s fewer new claims in the entire week than the state had each day in the initial period after the shutdown’s impact rippled across the state.
On March 20, 90,000 people filed claims for unemployment. In one week in late March, the number of new claims topped 400,000.
The drop in new claims comes as the state has begun relaxing those restrictions across much of the state.
In a press call with reporters on Monday, Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said the number of claims, though declining, are still significant. In the weeks ending May 10, the number of claims was 65,000.
Oleksiak said the number of recent claims is “a tremendously high number, given that the state had been working with before the pandemic mitigation efforts went into effect.”
The state has received close to 1.9 million initial claims through the traditional unemployment program and another 266,000 claims for assistance through the stimulus-funded program to provide benefits to self-employed people and independent contractors, he said.
About 76% of the people who filed initial claims were approved, said Susan Dickinson, director of the state Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy.
The remaining 24% include both people whose claims are pending and those who may be ineligible, she said.
Pennsylvania has paid out $8.8 billion in benefits to unemployed people, Oleksiak said. That includes both the normal state benefit and the additional $600 a week provided by the federal stimulus funding.
Dickinson said that the state over the weekend also launched a new program that will provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits to jobless workers who have exhausted the 26 weeks of benefits normally provided by the state’s unemployment compensation program.
Those extra weeks will be available to unemployed people in Pennsylvania through the rest of 2020.