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62,000 Marylanders file for unemployment in first drop in jobless claims since coronavirus reached the state

Another 61,770 Marylanders filed for unemployment benefits last week as the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread — though it was the first drop in jobless claims since COVID-19 reached the state.

Nationally, 5.2 million people filed for unemployment in the week ending April 11, also a decline from recent weeks but still a record-shattering figure. The losses translate to about 1 in 7 American workers.

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In all, nearly 297,000 people have filed for unemployment in Maryland over the past month, among 22 million people seeking jobless claims across the country. By comparison, Maryland received roughly 215,000 jobless claims in all of 2019.

Nearly 12 million people are now receiving unemployment checks across the United States, roughly matching the peak reached in January 2010, shortly after the Great Recession officially ended.

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The surge of demand for unemployment benefits has caused major backups in the processing of claims, though state and federal officials assure laid-off workers they eventually will get any and all unemployment checks they are owed.

Maryland labor officials say they are working to train additional unemployment office staff to handle the tens of thousands of calls coming in every day. And they also are working to allow more dislocated workers to file for unemployment online, instead of by phone, which is required for federal workers and anyone who has recently worked outside of Maryland.

Officials have said they still are working to update systems to allow Marylanders to receive new unemployment programs passed under the federal CARES Act last month. That includes an extra $600 in weekly benefits through the end of July, an extra 13 weeks of eligibility for unemployment benefits, and new eligibility for self-employed people and so called “gig economy" workers.

In Maryland, those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own are eligible for anywhere from $50 to $430 a week in unemployment benefits, and they can collect for up to 26 weeks.

Residents of Montgomery and Baltimore counties applied for unemployment benefits in the largest numbers in the week that ended April 11, and, based on population, jobless claims are most concentrated in Worcester County.

As the state labor department works to help those residents, it posted its own job opportunities this week — a listing seeking “over 100” additional staff members to process unemployment claims at offices across the state. The jobs pay $17.36 an hour, and no experience is required, though a bachelor’s degree and proficiency with Microsoft Office are.

And while residents remain sheltering at home, demand for deliveries from grocers and online retailer Amazon is creating job opportunities. Amazon said Thursday that it plans to hire an additional 3,000 people in full- and part-time jobs in Maryland.

The online retail giant already has hired 3,300 new workers in Maryland during the outbreak. That initial wave of hiring was part of more than 100,000 new jobs Amazon added nationwide in response to the soaring demand, and is now looking to hire another 75,000 people across the country.

Workers are needed to pick, pack and ship customer orders and groceries, and deliver packages from delivery stations. Employees are being hired for fulfillment centers, sorting centers, delivery stations and Whole Foods Markets stores across the state.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lorraine Mirabella and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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