Business closures from COVID-19 catapulted Nevada’s unemployment rate to 28.2 percent in April, the highest ever recorded for a U.S. state.
Unemployment reached its highest level in the Silver State as it saw its first full month of non-essential business shutdowns, according to Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. In total, the state is down 244,800 jobs over the month.
Nevada’s jobless rate for April was double what was seen during the Great Recession when the state topped the nation and unemployment reached close to 14%. The number also eclipses new unemployment highs posted by other states. Only two other states have ever posted jobless rates past the 20% mark, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Michigan reached 22.7% and Hawaii reached 22.3% in April. Nevada’s numbers also trump the Great Depression, when unemployment peaked at nearly 25% in 1933.
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“Nevada is facing record high unemployment and the sheer numbers are difficult to comprehend,” Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted Friday morning along with a copy of the report. “I am so pleased that DETR staff is working so hard to connect Nevadans to their benefits during this time, paying out more than 80 percent of eligible claims week over week.”
More: Coronavirus layoffs: How to file for unemployment insurance benefits if you’ve lost your job
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Employment also fell 18 percent from 2019, a loss of 254,800 jobs. This marks the largest drop in employment for both one month and one year on record.
The state saw 197,067 claims for unemployment filed in April, and increase of 1,955 percent over April 2019. Initial claims are six times the previous high set in December 2008, during the Great Recession.
Nevada’s jobless rate was described as “unprecedented” by David Schmidt, chief economist for DETR.
“These numbers reflect the large impact that the COVID-19 shutdown has had on Nevada’s workers,” Schmidt said at a Friday morning Zoom conference held by DETR.
Industries such as food and beverage, and tourism have been especially hit hard by the impact of the novel coronavirus, according to Schmidt. One difference from the Great Depression, however, is that Nevada has more resources for unemployed workers, he said. Companies are also better able to deal with the downturn, which was triggered by a rapid public policy response to a pandemic as opposed to years of economic decline, Schmidt added.
“Today, we have a larger safety net,” Schmidt said.
“The state is already shifting back to reopening.”
At the same time, the deluge of workers seeing unemployment insurance is taxing state resources. After fixing issues with its online filing system, the state is now receiving reports of callers on certain mobile providers automatically getting a busy signal when calling the unemployment hotlines. In addition to handling an ongoing flood of claims through the state’s unemployment insurance system, DETR staff also worked around the clock on Thursday night as the agency is preparing to launch a separate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA system on Saturday for workers who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. These include gig workers, contractors and 1099 filers.
The traditional unemployment insurance system also has 46,956 potentially eligible but pending claims that still need to be manually verified due to an assortment of issues. The state is doing its best to process its backlog of applications, said DETR Director Heather Korbulic. Even if a claim is put on hold, Korbulic encouraged applicants to continue filing them for each period they are eligible for. The state is looking to hire an additional 140 people as it works to catch up with all the applications being filed, she said.
“We are aware of every claim in holding and we are working on each one of those,” Korbulic said. “We will be getting to your claim.”
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