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New jobless claims on LI see steep rise for second week in a row

Mary-Ann Hudson of West Hempstead said she's grateful

Mary-Ann Hudson of West Hempstead said she's grateful for the extra $300 in unemployment benefits that arrived this week.  Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

New jobless claims on Long Island jumped significantly for the second week in a row as the state began to disburse enhanced unemployment payments, state data reported Thursday show.

Unemployment claims for the week ended Jan. 2 rose more than 30% on Long Island, to 8,063 claims from 6,194 the week before, state Labor Department data shows. And the week before last, local claims rose 48% over the previous week. Both weeks, the local numbers contrasted with modest decline in national claims.

Gregory DeFreitas, senior labor economics professor at Hofstra University, said Thursday upticks in the region’s weekly jobless claims could be due to the effects of COVID’s "second wave."

"The state went up about 12%, so Long Island had a much bigger increase than the state," DeFreitas said. He cautioned against drawing conclusions based on the results of two weeks' data, and added that he sees hope for greater stimulus with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats controlling both houses of Congress.

The $900 billion financial aid package that Congress enacted last month included a $300-a-week federal jobless benefit on top of state benefits, and Long Islanders began getting the money this week.

Mary-Ann Hudson, a West Hempstead resident who lost her job as an office manager in March, said the weekly $300 will be crucial for her as she pays her mortgage and car payments.

And while she said she's glad for the extra money, she said the cost of living on the Island means the extra funds don’t go far.

"The $300 I’m getting is different than the people in Utah," she said. "I’m grateful for it but that plus my unemployment still doesn’t pay my bills at the end of the month."

Hudson, 60, worked for over 40 years without ever needing to go on unemployment. Now, as her inability to land a new job carries over into the new year and the spread of COVID continues, she worries about the future.

"It’s getting really tough," said Hudson who has already spent the one-time $600 stimulus that also arrived this week and has dipped into her 401(k). "I’m petrified because now things are getting worse. I don’t see my chances of getting a job being any better."

Still other Long Islanders, like Eileen Schneyman of Old Bethpage, have been dealing with delays in the processing of unemployment payments for weeks.

"It’s been tough," said Schneyman, who lost her full-time position in July. "I’m very lucky that I did have some savings but … I don’t know how long I can sustain it for."

Schneyman, a social worker who was able to hold onto a part-time position at a nonprofit working one day a week, said she’s been struggling to reach the state’s unemployment office for an issue that’s resulted in her unemployment payments not being disbursed.

"Without getting the income from unemployment on a regular basis, it’s very challenging," she said. "I’ve basically cut expenses down to the bare minimum."

DeFreitas, who also serves as the director of the Center for Labor and Democracy at Hofstra, said the winter could bring further job losses unless state and local governments are given aid to keep police officers, firefighters and teachers on the payroll.

"Those jobs are definitely at risk as the state and the localities move closer and closer to having to balance their budgets in the coming months," he said.

Still, he said, the rollout of a vaccine and the likelihood of greater stimulus from a new Congress could provide greater consumer confidence, leading to greater spending and consequently fewer layoffs.

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