As businesses across Anne Arundel County take hesitant steps to attract customers and hire back staff — such as Live! Casino & Hotel — another 1,839 residents filed for unemployment insurance benefits last week.
It’s the lowest weekly rate since the pandemic began but still abnormally high.
Statewide, 56,126 laid-off and furloughed workers filed a jobless claim, the third straight week the state has seen a rise in new unemployed workers filing for benefits.
Some furloughed workers are being called back to work as more malls, casinos, hotels, gyms and restaurants resume business with health protocols in place. But not all businesses will be able to rise from the ashes after taking deep financial hits during the coronavirus economic shutdown.
Despite malls reopening two weeks ago, bankrupt retail giants already struggling to compete with e-commerce companies are planning store closures and layoffs heading into a murky future for in-person shopping.
Macy’s recently announced its plan to layoff 103 employees at Westfield Annapolis and an additional 131 workers at The Mall in Columbia. Representatives from the department store said the two Macy’s will remain open at those locations.
The pandemic first rocked the hospitality industry to a grinding halt in March. Hotels, restaurants and bars shut for weeks while society bunkered down at home.
Now that the curve of coronavirus cases is relatively flat in Maryland, the hospitality industry is slowly back up and running with numerous safety protocols and restrictions in place, including serving half the typical amount of customers.
Live! Casino & Hotel announced Wednesday that guests can once again book reservations to stay at its hotel overnight. Smaller hotels like The Westin Annapolis and The SpringHill Suites by Marriott Annapolis have also invited guests back.
Maryland and Anne Arundel County’s economic recovery depends on the ability to keep coronavirus cases low and prevent potential outbreaks. Otherwise, the hospitality and retail industries could face shutdowns like California, Florida and Arizona.
“As long as we don’t have a second wave and our elected officials continue to be safe, I think businesses will come back better than ever. That’s my hope, that we build back stronger,” said Kirkland Murray, president of Anne Arundel Workforce Development.
With confirmed coronavirus cases spiking across the Sun Belt states, a range of evidence suggests that a job market recovery may be stalling. In those states and elsewhere, some restaurants, bars and other retailers are being forced to close shortly after reopening.
U.S. employers added a substantial 4.8 million jobs in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1%, as the job market improved for a second straight month yet still remained far short of regaining the colossal losses it suffered this spring.
The nation has now recovered roughly one-third of the 22 million jobs it lost to the pandemic recession.
The re-closings are keeping layoffs elevated: The number of Americans who sought unemployment benefits barely fell last week to 1.47 million. Though that weekly figure has declined steadily since peaking in late March, it’s still more than double the pre-pandemic peak set in 1982. And the total number of people receiving jobless aid remains at a sizable 19 million.
In Maryland, nearly 900,000 people have filed a jobless claim since the middle of March when the virus first emerged. Almost 75,000 people have filed for emergency financial assistance in Anne Arundel County.
The state labor department said it paid over $3.3 billion in unemployment insurance benefits during the pandemic. It processed 546,923 claims, or 95% of claims, so far and paid out 448,897 claims, about 78%. Around 98,00 claims, or 17%, have been denied.
The labor department started processing regular unemployment insurance claims stuck in the state’s system by “reclassifying” them as PUA claims, or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. Maryland Department of Labor said it’s cut backlog by 28% this way, processing 24,913 claims.
The federal government implemented PUA claims through the CARES Act for gig workers and self-employed contractors who were otherwise not eligible for benefits.