Another 48,963 Marylanders filed first-time unemployment claims last week, according to the latest statistics released by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
The new claims for the week ending May 23 bring the total in Maryland to 656,751 over the last 10 weeks as the state continues to see the economic ramifications from policies intended to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of new claims for the last week is 2,145 fewer than the week before that, but still four times higher than the most filed for any week of the Great Recession.
More than 33,000 first-time claims were filed by workers traditionally covered by unemployment benefits compared to the 15,127 filed by the self-employed and so-called gig workers who are being offered benefits under a federal program approved earlier this year.
Maryland has been under a state of emergency since March 5 when the first three cases were confirmed in the state.
Since then, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has imposed dozens of executive orders meant to slow the spread of the disease and prevent hospitals across the state from being swamped with severely ill people. Those mandates included an order that closed all non-essential businesses.
Hogan in the last two weeks has started to move the state into the early phases of a reopening plan and allowed retailers and some personal services businesses to reopen. But not every county has allowed those businesses to fully open including Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Starting Friday at 5 p.m., restaurants can resume limited table service provided they are outside and observe strict social distancing and disinfecting requirements. Additionally, restaurants have to observe whatever local restrictions might limit their reopening.
The state’s unemployment insurance website has been the source of sharp criticism from lawmakers as out-of-work residents say they have been either unsuccessful in filing claims or are still waiting weeks later to be paid.
“So many people are suffering,” said Hogan. “It frustrates the heck out of me because you can’t immediately get people the money they need. Not all of it is something we can fix, unfortunately.”
Hogan, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, blamed federal officials for changing rules governing new benefits.
“This is a federal program,” said Hogan. “It’s new and it’s been very complex and hard to implement.”
The governor said it is possible that a large number of workers may never receive checks.
“It’s still not helping everybody and the sad reality is there are a lot of people, I don’t know what the percentage is nationwide, I think around 20% of the people, just don’t qualify so they’re not going to get paid,” he said, adding later that “a huge chunk … sadly are not going to get their checks ever because the federal government won’t pay them.”
Nationally, more than 2.1 million people applied for benefits last week, bringing the total to more than 40 million Americans out of work since the outbreak began.
A recent paper released by the University of Chicago predicted that up to 42% of pandemic-induced job losses could become permanent.