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Businesses reopen; claims start to slow

About 2.1 million file in US last week

Last week marked the fourth week in a row that unemployment benefit claims in Trumbull and Mahoning counties have come down, and the second consecutive they’ve fallen below 1,000.

Yet the 666 claims in Trumbull County and the 791 in Mahoning County remain well above the numbers before the viral outbreak and state’s stay-at-home order upended businesses, causing them to shed workers or shut down.

In the week preceding limitations placed on some businesses — March 8 to 14 — there were 156 claims in Trumbull County and 192 in Mahoning County.

Despite the monthlong decline in claims filed, it’s still a 326 percent increase in Trumbull County and 311 percent in Mahoning County.

The latest numbers push the total claims in the two-county region to nearly 50,000 — 22,512 in Trumbull County and 26,787 in Mahoning County.

Thursday’s report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services also shows just little more than 42,000 Ohioans filed for aid last week, pushing the state’s 10-week total to 1.2 million claims, which is more than the last three years combined.

So far, the state has processed 93 percent of the claims and paid out more than $3.1 billion to more than 644,000 claimants.

In addition, the state has made more than $647 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments to more than 109,000 individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation.

In the U.S., about 2.1 million more Americans applied for benefits last week, even as states gradually reopen. Since the virus took hold in mid-March, an estimated 41 million people have sought aid.

First-time applications for unemployment, though still extraordinarily high, have fallen for eight straight weeks, and states are gradually letting stores, restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses reopen. But other employers are still laying off workers in the face of a deep recession.

The Labor Department report included a positive sign: The number of people now receiving benefits fell for the first time since the outbreak intensified in mid-March, from 25 million to 21 million. That suggests companies are starting to rehire and could mean that total job losses will peak in May.

Also, continuing claims for the week ending May 16 fell for the first time since late February, said Gus Faucher, chief economist for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank.

“The drop in continuing claims is a positive, indicating that more people left the UI (unemployment insurance) system than entered, suggesting job gains exceeded job losses over the week,” Faucher said.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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