unemployment

Kentucky legislature

The former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance told legislators Thursday the agency’s chaotic rush to deliver benefits in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic led to months-long delays — and may have violated federal unemployment regulations. 

Muncie McNamara testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting first reported the details of McNamara’s time at the Office of Unemployment Insurance earlier this month; he was hired personally by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman in January and fired in May, amid the chaos of the pandemic.

Updated at 11:34 a.m. ET

New claims for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time in four months — since March 28 — as states began reimposing lockdown restrictions in an effort to reverse a surge of coronavirus cases.

More than 1.4 million new claims were filed during the week ending July 18, an increase of more than 100,000 over the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Kentucky’s official unemployment rate is trending downward since swelling to more than 15 percent at the height of the coronavirus outbreak. 

June’s jobless rate was 4.3 percent, mirroring the rate recorded for the state one year ago.

Kentucky's current unemployment rate is also much lower than the national average of 11.1 percent. The number of Kentuckians employed in June increased by 28,536 while the number of unemployed decreased by 137,600.

Bytemarks via Creative Commons

Kentucky is still processing about 50,000 unemployment claims made during March, April and May, though state officials said on Wednesday that contractors have started working through the backlog this week.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration announced last week that the state will pay professional services firm Ernst & Young $7.4 million to help process the backlog with 300 workers.

During a meeting of the legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Appropriations and Revenue on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Mike Nemes said he had “quite a few problems” with the contract, arguing that the state could have saved money by hiring more state employees.

Ryland Barton

As Kentucky continues to struggle with a backlog of unemployment claims dating back to March, appointments to get in-person assistance with unfilled claims are now booked through August.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration set up an online portal for people to sign up for in-person help with unemployment benefits late last week, but the slots quickly filled up this week.

According to the state’s career center website, in-person appointments at the Kentucky Labor Cabinet building in Frankfort were booked through August 25 (as of Friday afternoon).

Bytemarks via Creative Commons

The state of Kentucky has hired an outside contractor to speed up the processing of unemployment claims. The coronavirus created nearly one million jobless claims in the commonwealth. 

Gov. Andy Beshear's administration has entered into a one-month contract with Ernst and Young to fix the massive backlog of applications. Three hundred of the accounting firm’s employees will begin processing claims on Monday, July 6. During a news conference on Tuesday, Beshear acknowledged the public's frustration with busy phone lines and lack of in-person assistance.

“The reality that we hear is that they can’t get somebody talking to them to fix their claim. We’re quadrupling our workforce," Beshear said. "They’re going to start calling people with the oldest claims first.”

istockphoto

As the Ohio Valley continues its phased-in reopening, unemployment insurance claims are down slightly compared to the week before. The region is still reporting high levels of unemployment assistance applications.

At least 82,011 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor shows about 1.8 million unemployment claims around the country for the week ending May 30, bringing the country’s total jobless applicants to almost 42 million since mid-March. 

Becca Schimmel

As some businesses in the Ohio Valley reopen and welcome back both customers and employees the region continues reporting high levels of unemployment claims. 

At least 100,863 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are making progress on unemployment claims filed in March as states begin a phased-in reopening. 

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are making progress on unemployment claims filed in March as states begin a phased-in reopening. 

New unemployment insurance claims are still reaching unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region.

 

At least 125,459 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That surge in claims is in addition to the more than two million unemployment assistance applications people in the Ohio Valley made since mid-March. 

Bytemarks via Creative Commons.

New unemployment insurance claims are starting to reach a plateau but are still hitting unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region.

At least 154,102 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That surge in claims is in addition to the more than one million unemployment assistance applications people in the Ohio Valley made since mid-March. 

 

The data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor showing more than 3.1 million unemployment claims around the country for the week ending May 2, bringing the country’s total jobless applicants to over 33 million since mid-March. 

Becca Schimmel / WKU Public Radio/Ohio Valley ReSource

New unemployment insurance claims in the Ohio Valley began to taper off this week as states make their way through the backlog of applications amid business closures forced by the coronavirus pandemic. But local economies still face a staggering number of unemployed, and many of those who are out of work are still awaiting help. 

About 211,000 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The latest claims push the regional total to nearly 1.8 million unemployment assistance applications from people in the Ohio Valley since mid-March. 


Becca Schimmel

Unemployment insurance claims are still reaching unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region.

Nearly 260,000 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That surge in claims is in addition to the more than one million unemployment assistance applications people in the Ohio Valley made since mid-March. 

The data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor showing more than 4.4 million unemployment claims around the country for the week, bringing the country’s total jobless applicants to approximately 26 million since mid-March. 

istockphoto

Unemployment insurance claims are still reaching unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region. 

At least 287,576 people in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s in addition to the roughly 755,000 claims form the three states in the previous two weeks.

 

The data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor showing more than 5.25 million unemployment claims around the country for the week, bringing the country’s total jobless applicants to approximately 22 million.

Courtesy Bytemarks via Creative Commons

After Elise McCulloch lost work as a government contractor, she was relieved the state expanded unemployment to self-employed workers like herself. But that relief turned to frustration when she started the application process, loaded with dead ends and errors.

McCulloch tried to apply using four different web browsers on four different devices. The system would crash nearly every time.

It took about six hours of trying before McCulloch made it to the end of the application. But when McCulloch tried to submit it by clicking the final button, she was greeted by a popup and a spinning wheel that never loaded.

Bytemarks via Creative Commons.

Claims for unemployment insurance once again surged around the Ohio Valley as nearly 355,500 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia sought help last week amid the economic calamity caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s in addition to the roughly 400,000 unemployment claims from the three states the previous week.

The graph below shows the unprecedented amount of weekly insurance claims for each state and the region (note that the numbers here are not cumulative). 

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