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Marylanders seeking jobless benefits during pandemic near 1M

md-unemployment-chart-2-colsMore than 66,550 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.

Thursday’s report represents the highest number of first-time claims since May 2 when more than 109,000 people filed for benefits.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 965,737 Marylanders have filed for benefits at some point during the last 16 weeks. Not all of those who filed claims continue to receive benefits. In May, Maryland added back nearly 30,00 jobs — less than one-tenth of the more than 318,000 claims that were filed that month.

The report released this week does not provide insight into what sectors are driving the continued large number of claims.

Since the start of the pandemic, hotels, restaurants, related hospitality industries, health care and social assistance, and retailers took the hardest hits.

Some county officials say they working to ramp up economic recovery in their jurisdictions.

In Prince George’s County more than 125,000 people have filed for benefits.

“This has  been a tough time for us,” said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

Earlier this year, Alsobrooks created an advisory panel of public health, business and government experts to make recommendations on how to speed the economic recovery. That panel is expected to deliver its first set of recommendations in two weeks. Alsobrooks said she plans on implementing recommendations “in real time.”

That county, which has lead the state in total number of cases, has seen dramatic drops in the positivity rates. Alsobrooks said there are also signs that the county economy is awakening.

“We are not looking backwards,” said Alsobrooks. “Although we worked as hard as we could to get here, we are really, really determined that we will move forward in a stronger way.”

In addition to a number of key projects that are nearing completion, Alsobrooks said, online retail giant Amazon has agreed to open two new “last mile” distribution facilities in Upper Marlboro and Lanham.

Workers not traditionally covered by unemployment but now eligible because of changes in federal law make up 51% of those who filed during the reporting period. This is the second consecutive week that claims from those workers outpaced those traditionally covered by the program. In every other week, traditional workers comprised the vast majority of filings.

Maryland’s unemployment rate stood at 9.9% at the end of May but could go down when new figures are released later this month.

Nationally, more than 1.3 million workers filed claims, a decrease of about 100,000 over the previous week. It is the 16th straight week that filings for benefits in the U.S. has exceeded 1 million claims.

Overall, roughly 18 million Americans still receive benefits. Last week, the federal Department of Labor reported that 4.5 million jobs were added back to the economy in June. That was on top of 2.5 million in May.

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