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Maryland unemployment claims decline for a second week, but remain historically high

Maryland unemployment claims declined last week for a second week in a row, though they remain at historically high levels.

The state reported 37,225 claims for jobless benefits in the week that ended April 25, about 10,000 fewer than a week earlier and one-third of the level during the week that ended April 4.

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Nationally, more than 30 million people have now filed for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, as social distancing orders and fear of the virus keep people at home and many businesses closed.

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.

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Maryland and many other states continue to struggle processing the surge of jobless claims. Before the pandemic hit, the state was receiving about 2,000 claims for unemployment benefits a week.

The Maryland Department of Labor launched a new website Friday to process claims, also for the first time making self-employed “gig economy” workers to file for unemployment benefits, which in this state range from $50 to $430 a week. Federal stimulus legislation adds $600 a week to those benefits through July.

But the website repeatedly crashed and is undergoing nightly maintenance.

Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday the website is processing more than 700 claims an hour, but those efforts are not good enough.

“The people of Maryland deserve better and the buck stops with me,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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