Bryan P. Sears//April 30, 2020
//April 30, 2020
The number of first-time unemployment claims in Maryland last week was 37,225 as the economic toll from the pandemic continues to ravage the state.
In all, more than 381,000 Marylanders have filed for benefits in the six weeks since Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in an effort to tamp down cases of COVID-19.
Claims for the week ending April 25 were 10,000 fewer than the previous week. Despite the lower figure, the numbers are still larger than any single week of filings during the Great Recession.
In the year prior to the pandemic, first-time claims for unemployment in Maryland typically ranged between 2,500 to 3,200, except for the month around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Nationally, more than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s.
The new filings come as Maryland struggles to right its floundering one-stop unemployment website called BEACON. The site, developed by Sagitec, crashed within hours of opening to the public and has been beset by issues since then.
Users reported being placed in lines behind tens of thousands of other users waiting for a turn to file claims, only to leave in frustration or find that they were unsuccessful in applying.
The failure of the site raises questions about how accurate the weekly counts are and if they are artificially low because of the sheer volume of people not able to successfully apply for benefits.
Hogan said Friday he is taking responsibility for getting the website running properly.
“The IT contractor who developed this site and the Department of Labor have fallen short of the high standards that we have set,” said Hogan. “People of Maryland deserve better and the buck stops with me. So I am going to make sure that they do and that we do whatever it takes to get this straight so that every single Marylander gets every single penny of financial assistance that they deserve.”
Hogan said the site, which is taken offline nightly for maintenance, is adding new accounts at the rate of 33 per minute and accepting new claims at the rate of 780 per hour.
Roughly 30.3 million people across the country have now filed for jobless aid in the six weeks since the coronavirus outbreak forced millions of employers to close their doors and slash their workforces. That is more people than live in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined, and it’s by far the worst string of layoffs on record. It adds up to more than one in six American workers.
With more employers cutting payrolls to save money, economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%. That would be the highest rate since it reached 25% during the Great Depression.
This week, the government estimated that the economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate in the first three months of this year, the sharpest quarterly drop since the 2008 financial crisis. Yet the picture is likely to grow far worse: The economy is expected to contract in the April-June quarter by as much as 40% at an annual rate. No previous quarter has been anywhere near as weak since the government began keeping such records after World War II.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.