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More than 740,000 jobless claims filed in Arizona since March

By: - May 28, 2020 9:11 am

Illustration by iStock / Getty Images Plus

Some 87,000 new unemployment claims were filed in the week ending May 23, bringing the total number of jobless claims since the COVID-19 pandemic started to more than 740,000.

The bulk of the claims have been for the state’s unemployment insurance program, which pays a maximum of $240 a week. About 20% of claimants have filed under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extended unemployment benefits to many who otherwise don’t qualify for state jobless aid. All recipients are eligible for federal payments of $600 a week through July 25.

Most of the new claims in the week ending May 23 were for the federal PUA program; only 24,723 were for the state’s unemployment insurance aid. The state claims are a decline of about 7,200 from the week before.

That is the lowest number of weekly new claims since the week ending March 21, when more than 29,000 people filed for unemployment as businesses began shutting down in response to the pandemic and government restrictions on commerce aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. 

A record number of claims was filed the week ending April 4, when 132,382 Arizonans filed jobless claims. 

Those figures almost certainly don’t account for everyone out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and problems persist with the claims system and the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Capitol Media Services reported that the agency is receiving between 70,000 and 120,000 calls a day from people seeking to apply for benefits or renew their benefits, but is only able to answer about 7,200 of those calls. 

And DES continues to overcharge out-of-work parents who pay child support.

Unemployed parents see no refunds as child support overcharges continue

The state’s 12.6% seasonally adjusted rate put it in 23rd place nationwide in April, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, the total number of unemployment claims filed equals about 17% of the state’s workforce.

Nationwide, 2.1 million people filed new jobless claims, which was less than the Wall Street estimate of 2.5 million, CNBC reported Thursday.  All told, nearly 41 million claims have been filed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CNBC further reported.

According to CNBC, continuing claims, or people who have been collecting benefits for at least two weeks, fell by 3.86 million from the week before, to 21.06 million claims this week.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provided an extra $600 a week in jobless aid. In fact, PUA expands eligibility to workers who historically have not been eligible for unemployment aid. Another federal program, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, provides out-of-work claimants with $600 per week.

An earlier version of this story also included incorrect numbers of the total number of jobless claims made since the pandemic began. The story and headline have been corrected to reflect that.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.