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LI new weekly unemployment claims rise by almost 400

A person passes a storefront that recently housed

A person passes a storefront that recently housed Computer Port repair shop in Port Washington. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The number of new jobless claims on Long Island grew by 10% last week, according to new data released Thursday amid rising cases of COVID, newly imposed curfews on state bars, restaurants and gyms, and stalled stimulus talks in Washington.

Last week, 4,342 unemployment claims were filed in Nassau and Suffolk counties, up 397 claims from the previous week, the state Labor Department reported. That's far below their dizzying heights during one week in April, when claims topped 59,000.

Still, claims remain strikingly high on a historic basis. During the same week last year, claims on Long Island were 1,879.

"If you look at the weekly numbers, they’ve been coming down gradually," said Mariano Torras, chairman of the economics and finance department at Adelphi University. He said that though the weekly number of new claims has generally been trending downward, "What no one is talking about, and what I think is more substantive, is that the numbers now at present are still, at a weekly basis, higher than they have been at any point in history."

Torras said that, overall, he’s skeptical of claims that the Island or the country are in the process of a true recovery.

"I would go on a limb and say we’re probably in an economic depression," Torras said.

More than 148,000 Long Islanders received some form of unemployment insurance payments in September, the latest month for which the data is available.

According to state Labor Department data, 73,500 Nassau residents and 75,200 Suffolk residents received aid that month. And while the number of unemployed on the Island has come down as conditions have improved over the months, many are competing for a smaller number of jobs.

While normal, state-funded unemployment insurance benefits end after 26 weeks, it's possible that some long-term unemployed New Yorkers could see aid last up to 59 weeks, thanks to an aptly named federal extension program called Extended Benefits.

As of September, the states’ jobless rate stood at 9.4%. By comparison, during the same month last year, the unemployment rate was 3.6%.

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