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            Jobless claims pile up in Capital Region, nation

            More than 12,000 claims filed locally last week

            Photo of Eric Anderson
            Eric Anderson

            The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance last week dipped in the Capital Region, the state and the nation, but remained near historic highs during the global pandemic, according to data reported Thursday by the state and federal Labor Departments.

            For the second week in a row, claims at the national level topped six million, although the 6,606,000 claims filed during the week ending April 4 were down from 6,867,000 filed a week earlier..

            In the five-county Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan area,  11,569 claims were filed, down from 14,936 a week earlier but significantly higher than the 446 filed a year earlier.

            In New York, 345,246 claims were filed, down from 366,595 the week before, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

            In the past three weeks, nearly 800,000 initial claims have been filed in New York state.

            Nationally, that figure is more than 16 million over the past three weeks.

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            “Today’s report continues to reflect the purposeful sacrifice being made by America’s workers and their families to slow the spread of the coronavirus," U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said following the release. "Earlier this week, the Department of Labor provided States the essential guidance they need to distribute the enhanced, $600 weekly unemployment benefit under the CARES Act.

            "States have already begun making these payments, and additional States will follow as they complete their preparations," Scalia added. "The Department continues to work closely with the States to support this process.”

            The economy has largely ground to a halt in the wake of a pandemic that has spread globally. Restaurants, retail shops, 体彩app官方网站s and colleges, and theaters and other venues have closed down, with only essential businesses continuing to operate, as government officials urge consumers to stay 体彩app官方网站 and practice social distancing.

            Airlines and Amtrak have cut service, with fewer planes and shorter trains operating. Capital Region highways are seeing lighter traffic, even during rush hours.

            Malls have closed their public spaces, although some "essential" stores with outside entrances continue to operate. Restaurants that remain open have issued special take-out menus as they keep at least some of their staff employed.

            The greatest number of claims filed statewide were from workers in the accommodation and food services sector, with 56,848 claims, retail trade, with 47,999 claims, construction/utilities, with 38,933 claims, and health care and social assistance, with 37,532 claims.

            Retail has been particularly hard hit. On Thursday, Dick's Sporting Goods confirmed it was furloughing 40,000 workers. The Pittsburgh-based retailer  operates several stores in the Capital Region.

            The state Labor Department on Thursday evening was set to roll out a streamlined online application for unemployment benefits, and applicants who previously were required to call the department now won't have to endure the hours-long waits to get through and the disconnects and other issues that have bogged down the system.

            Now, if a phone call is required, it will be one of the 1,000 Labor Department employees who will call the applicant, said Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. The phone call will be made within 72 hours after the online application is submitted, she told reporters.

            Capitol bureau reporter Cayla Harris contributed to this story.