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Marylanders filed 48,963 new jobless claims last week

Marylanders filed 48,963 claims for unemployment benefits the week ending May 23 as thousands of state residents continue to go without work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In total, Maryland residents have filed 662,639 jobless claims in the past 10 weeks as statistics released by the state Department of Labor Thursday show that state residents are still looking for financial aid while businesses in the state remain closed.

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The total number of claims is a slight decrease compared to the previous week, when 51,108 people filed for unemployment assistance.

Across the country, roughly 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, a decrease of about 323,000 from the week before, but a sign that companies are still cutting jobs while some businesses start to slowly reopen. Since March, about 41 million people have filed for unemployment aid.

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Prince George’s County led Maryland in newly filed claims last week with 8,246. According to the state, Baltimore residents filed 5,745 claims last week.

While Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, the state’s most populated, continue to lead in the total number of weekly cases, other areas of the state are showing high concentrations of unemployment claims.

In rural Worcester County, 8,404 claims for unemployment benefits and aid have been filed since March 7, according to the state.

With an estimated population of only 52,276 people as of last year according to the U.S. Census Bureau, not accounting for duplicate or incorrectly filed applications, that would mean more than 16% of the county has filed for some form of unemployment assistance in the past three months. The county also has a large retirement community, with 27.8% of residents age 65 years or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hogan, a Republican, said during a news conference Wednesday that the federal government was partly to blame for how efficiently unemployment benefits have been processed in recent weeks.

“They’ve changed guidelines at the federal level 12 times since the program came out a few weeks ago,” Hogan said.

The governor said that a requirement making people refile their claims weekly has also led to “tremendous difficulties” and that unemployment law could keep a significant number of applicants from qualifying for benefits. He added that while the state has processed more than 400,000 claims and added 250 more employees to help assist residents over the phone, “it’s still not helping everybody.”

“A huge chunk of them, I don’t know what the percentage is, are not going to get the checks, ever, because the federal government won’t pay them,” he said.

Hogan announced Wednesday that the state would ease further restrictions to allow for outdoor dining at restaurants, the return of youth sports and camps, and the reopening of pools and drive-in movies, albeit all with group size limits and social distancing guidelines.

However, jurisdictions still have the right to implement their own restrictions under the governor’s order.

Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County officials have said they are evaluating the best course of action. The three jurisdictions are in the top five municipalities for unemployment claims filed in the past three months as well as confirmed COVID-19 cases.

However, officials in Carroll and Harford counties have indicated they plan to implement the new changes soon. According to the state, 15,705 unemployment claims have been filed in Carroll County and 27,001 claims in Harford County since March 7, compared to roughly 1,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the two counties this year.

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The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the unemployment rate could reach as high as 25% by the end of June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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