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Weekly jobless filings on LI spiked more than 52% last week

Barber Steve Panaghi walks into his shop along

Barber Steve Panaghi walks into his shop along Main Street in Eastport on Nov. 20. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Jobless claims on Long Island rose dramatically last week as the number of locals seeking state assistance jumped more than 50% from the previous week, state data released Thursday shows.

Last week, 6,597 Islanders filed for jobless aid, a 52.39% increase over the 4,329 who sought assistance at the end of November.

While jobless claims have fallen sharply since their record-breaking highs earlier in the pandemic when unemployment claims soared above 50,000 during a single week in April, the recent rise is "concerning" said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association business group.

Rizzo said the recent increase may be reflective of the growing uncertainty facing the country’s economy. Namely, Congress’ inability to pass a stimulus bill that would continue unemployment aid and help small businesses.

"That’s not a small change and it’s in the direction a lot of us expected given what is not happening with federal assistance," Rizzo said. "It’s concerning because I think it’s just the beginning unless we get that assistance."

Rizzo said the recent jump, paired with the smaller national rise, may be the start of a very rough three to four months if Congress doesn’t act soon.

"They’re going to get worse if we don’t do something," he said.

While weekly claim growth on Long Island outpaced the state's and nation's, Rizzo said the difference is probably a function of the smaller population size on Long Island. He said he wasn't worried that the one-week number was an indication that Long Island is doing worse than elsewhere.

Contributing to economic uncertainty is the looming end date for unemployment programs tied to COVID, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA.

As of Nov. 21, nearly 1.2 million New Yorkers rely on PUA, a special form of unemployment aid created for gig workers and the self-employed early in the pandemic as part of the federal CARES Act. This class of workers, excluded from traditional unemployment aid, stands to lose that assistance on Dec. 27 in New York and on Dec. 26 in many states.

PUA pays recipients between $184 to $504 per week, depending on their recent earnings.

The state did not report the number of Long Islanders receiving PUA benefits.

Every region across the state saw an increase in weekly jobless claims last week, rising to 63,763 for all of New York, up from 46,270 claims the previous week.

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