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At 61,170, first-time jobless claims in Md. continue to soar

Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

An additional 61,170 Marylanders filed for first-time unemployment claims in the last week as businesses around the state have been under an order to close for about a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total number of first-time claims for the week ending April 11 is 47,000 lower than the previous week.

The claims for the week ending April 11 bring the total job loss in Maryland to 296,242 in four weeks, easily eclipsing any three-week period in state history. Last week, 108,508 residents filed for first-time claims.

Anirban Basu, a local economy expert and chairman of the Sage Policy Group, said the state’s unemployment rate is probably in double digits.

“Not everyone who becomes unemployed files for unemployment, even under expanded eligibility,” said Basu. “My model tells me that the U.S. unemployment rate is now in the range of 15 percent, and approximately 13.7 percent in Maryland.”

Those calculations for Maryland do not take into account the most recent week, he said.

“We received a useful data point today on residential construction, which helped me refine my model,” said Basu. “It is conceivable that unemployment rate is even higher by now, perhaps 17-18 percent nationally.”

Nationally, more than 5.2 million filed new claims last week. The national total for first-time unemployment claims approaches more than 22 million in the last four weeks.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for the week ending April 4 was 8.2 percent, marking the highest level of seasonally adjusted unemployment since the agency began collecting such data. The previous high was 7.0 percent in 1975.

The latest state numbers come amid calls from some lawmakers and members of the public to begin to reopen the state’s economy.

At least one group on Facebook is calling for a protest in Annapolis Saturday similar to one that clogged roads in Lansing, Michigan, Wednesday.

Gov. Larry Hogan Wednesday said that “aggressive” actions he implemented, including closing non-essential businesses and social distancing orders, have driven down the number of projected sick and dead from COVID-19. Those actions have also had a crippling effect on the state economy that the pro-business Republican has called “a dual crisis.”

Hogan said he is developing a strategy to begin to ease those restrictions,and he laid out the criteria he would use to make those decisions, but provided no specific timetable. Details, he said, would come in an announcement next week.

Hogan and other governors are expected to participate in a phone call with federal leaders in advance of an announcement by President Donald Trump on federal guidelines for re-opening the economy. Trump earlier this week said he had sole authority to force states to lift restrictions that closed businesses. He has since softened that stance, saying he would work with governors.

Hogan, speaking on The Today Show Thursday morning following the release of the new unemployment numbers, said he and other governors hope to “work in partnership” with Trump’s administration.

“There’s many things the federal government can do to help the states,” said Hogan. “We believe they may come up with some good information that we could all share, but ultimately it is going to be the governors that have to make the decisions in their own states. Different states are at different points in the curve. Only we know what’s going on in our states.”

The unprecedented flood of unemployment claims has led to snarls on the Department of Labor’s phone banks and website. Hogan last week said staff from other departments have been deployed to the unemployment office to help handle the overload.

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