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Nebraska shatters unemployment claims record set last week
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Nebraska shatters unemployment claims record set last week

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Unionized hospitality workers wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy in Los Angeles last month. U.S. unemployment claims also shattered a record this past week.

The unemployment claims record Nebraska set a week ago is a thing of the past.

The state had 24,572 initial claims for unemployment in the week ending March 29. That was up almost 9,000 claims from the previous week, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer the economy.

Nebraska now has had more than 40,000 unemployment claims filed in the past two weeks, which is about as many as it usually gets in a year.

Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the number of claims was not unexpected and claims numbers will remain elevated for several weeks "due to social distancing practices by consumers and businesses."

Nebraska sees a 'tidal wave' of unemployment claims

As bad as Nebraska's numbers were, they paled in comparison to national numbers, which more than doubled.

The U.S. had 6,648,000 initial claims last week, up 3,341,000 from the previous week.

Creighton economist Ernie Goss said Nebraska has not been affected by COVID-19 as much as many other states, so its unemployment numbers were less than would be expected if they matched its share of the workforce.

"Nebraska's share of non-farm employment is approximately 0.68% but its share of first-time claims is 0.42%," Goss said in an email.

Labor Commissioner John Albin said the fact that Nebraska's unemployment claims only increased 56% in the past week while they doubled nationally shows the state's economy is "much stronger" than the nation as a whole.

However, that doesn't make handling the unprecedented number of claims any easier.

Albin said his office paid nearly 7,700 new claims last week and another 2,800 or so continuing claims.

"Even if we do really good work, we're looking at three to four weeks before we get it all processed," he said.

Albin also said the state is not paying out any enhanced federal benefits yet because it has not gotten the OK from the federal government, but it will pay state benefits and catch up on the federal ones later.

Coronavirus taking toll on jobs in Lincoln
State, national economy 'needs a vaccine,' experts say

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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