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New weekly LI unemployment claims held steady last week

Andrew Coy of Babylon is a temp worker

Andrew Coy of Babylon is a temp worker with The Express Employment Professionals agency, which hosted a drive-thru job fair in Farmingdale this month. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

New weekly jobless claims on Long Island remained virtually unchanged last week after seeing a significant drop the week before, state data released Thursday show.

Initial unemployment claims for the week ended Oct. 24 fell by only 14 claims, to 4,632, the state Labor Department reported. The prior week, which had seen claims fall by more than 1,000, to 4,646, marked one of the more impressive changes in the weekly metric in over a month.

While unemployment claims remain far below the record high of over 59,000 during a week back in April, the recent figures are still far above historic norms. During the same week in October of last year, 1,397 new claims were filed.

The recent figures come amid a time of great economic uncertainty only days away from the presidential election.

Meanwhile, little progress has been made on a federal aid package to boost jobless benefits and assist small businesses. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell motioned for the Senate to adjourn until Nov. 9, after Tuesday's election, further postponing negotiations over a new coronavirus relief package.

Unemployment expert Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project, who had previously said a deal seemed more likely closer to the election, said she is "terrified that since negotiations are shut down now there's going to be a lot of turmoil over the next week."

"A lot of this year we were having a rational conversation about issues that affect millions and millions of people," she said. "The fact that these people are now a political football. … It’s just discouraging."

Evermore said that, given the level of economic insecurity across the country, she had thought a deal would be reached by now. Now, to predict what will happen after the election, "that seems impossible," she said.

Liz Salerno, a state-licensed massage therapist, said she’s been financially struggling since her once full-time position at a Nassau spa became a part-time position as fewer customers became willing to seek spa services.

Salerno, who receives partial unemployment to make up for the loss in income, says she’s not sure how she will continue to pay her bills and mortgage if additional federal aid doesn’t come through, or work doesn’t pick up.

"It’s so bad," said Salerno, who's been a massage therapist for 14 years. "This week my unemployment was $110, and I only worked two days last week."

Salerno said she’s been holding on to her job in hopes of a turnaround, but as the pandemic worsens in other parts of the country, she worries she’ll have to leave the industry altogether.

"If they don’t do something, I’m just going to have to take literally anything," she said. "I never had to worry that I couldn’t pay my mortgage or my rent. I’ve never been on unemployment before. I don’t want to fall behind on my bills."

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