Wisconsin set a record for unemployment claims last week, and may have already broken it

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Last updated on March 27th, 2020 at 01:28 pm

Nearly 51,000 initial unemployment claims were filed in Wisconsin last week, a figure that is lower than preliminary count data previously released by the state but still an unprecedented week of job loss.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has posted daily counts of initial unemployment claims to its website since the coronavirus outbreak started. Wisconsin has already received 70,198 claims from Sunday to Wednesday of this week, according to the department’s preliminary data.

Those counts suggested 69,342 initial claims were filed last week, but the state website notes that the claims needed to be processed and verified and would not match data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Wisconsin actually had 50,957 initial unemployment claims last week, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In the week before the coronavirus prompted the closure of restaurants, retail stores and a massive shift to remote work, Wisconsin had 5,190 initial claims.

Even though the number of claims is lower than the initial count, it is still the highest single week total for Wisconsin in data that goes back to 1987. The previous high was 49,267 at the end of 2001. There were was only one other week, at the end of 2002, that exceeded 40,000.

In fact, the number of claims last week exceeded the previous eight weeks combined.

In terms of absolute volume, Wisconsin had the 18th largest increase in unemployment claims. In percentage terms, the 882% increase was the 31st largest jump.

Pennsylvania saw the largest jump in volume with a 363,469 claim increase, followed by Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Texas.

New Hampshire saw the largest percentage increase at 3,308% while Maine, Louisiana and Rhode Island all also topped 3,000%. Minnesota rounded out the top five with a 2,804% increase.

Nationally, the seasonally-adjusted number of initial claims jumped to 3,283,000, the highest number on record. The previous high for a week was 695,000 in October 1982.

Before the massive jump in claims, the four-week average of initial claims was at 232,500.

Wisconsin has also continued to see layoff notices from employers. After getting a dozen such notices on Monday, the state received two more on Tuesday and another four on Wednesday.

Milwaukee area companies to issue notices over the last two days included:

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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