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Business/Economy

New jobless claims approach 95,000 in Alaska since COVID-19-related spike began

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In the nine weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic began leading to widespread job losses, the running total of new jobless claims filed in Alaska has surged to almost 95,000.

Weekly jobless claims that began soaring in March have remained astronomically high for that period, hitting 7,741 in the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s latest count, released on Wednesday.

The count, for the week ending May 9, was 845% higher than the same week one year ago. It brings the total number of claims filed since the spike began to 94,998.

Some people could have filed more than one new claim over the weeks, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“It’s likely we don’t know how many individuals have been reflected in the (cumulative) count,” he said.

In April, 48,238 people collected at least one week of benefits. That’s 15% of the workforce.

Weller has said that number is not a complete picture of unemployment in Alaska, and suggested it could rise to 70,000 as self-employed workers, who could only begin signing up in recent weeks, continue to be added to the system.

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