Alaska sets March record for unemployment filings

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - More than 32,000 people filed an initial claim for unemployment insurance benefits, a 637 perecent increase of the 4,359 who filed in March, 2019.

    Most of the new cases were filed in the final two weeks of March.

    Many businesses were forced to close or slow operations due to the pandemic.

    The number who received unemployment benefits for at least one week in March was 14,239, an increase of 33 percent over March 2019. The number of people receiving benefits will spike in April as the large wave of initial claims from March is processed.

    The biggest jump came from accommodation and food services, with 2,689 receiving benefits.  884 filed in March 2019 as hotels and restaurants closed or limited service.

    The next biggest increase was in health care and social assistance due to a dramatic reduction in nonemergency medical visits and procedures. Two other categories with large increases were transportation and warehousing and trade, a category that covers retail and wholesale trade. 

    Across the state, the largest claimant increases from last March were in Anchorage, followed by the Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula boroughs.  Juneau reported about 100 new filings.   It’s not yet clear why some parts of the state didn't show a rise in claimants from last March, but that is certain to change when April numbers become available next month.

    Similarly, the shutdown’s initial effects on Alaska’s job numbers and unemployment rate won’t be clear until April’s data come out next month. Alaska’s job count in March was up 0.4 percent from March 2019, an increase of 1,400. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point, to 5.6 percent, and the comparable U.S rate increased from 3.5 percent to 4.4 percent.

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