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Unemployment claims on LI surged more than 57% last week, state data shows

Robert Cerruti, with daughter Carmella, in Lake Grove

Robert Cerruti, with daughter Carmella, in Lake Grove on Thursday. Cerruti said the boosted unemployment benefits don't completely cover his lost wages, but the free time at home has allowed him and his wife to save big on child care. Credit: Morgan Campbell/Morgan Campbell

Jobless claims on Long Island surged more than 57% last week, state data shows, well above the national percentage increase in the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid.

Last week, Long Islanders filed 9,991 unemployment insurance claims, a significant uptick from the 6,357 residents who were looking for financial help the week prior, according to a state Labor Department report released Thursday.

By comparison, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits nationwide edged higher to 745,000 last week from 736,000 claims two weeks ago, a 1.22% increase.

While weekly Long Island claims remain well below its nearly 60,000 peak in claims last April, the number of Nassau and Suffolk residents seeking aid remain high. During the same week last year, 5,944 Long Islanders filed for unemployment.

Though the pace of layoffs nationwide has eased since the year began, according to U.S. Labor Department data, it remains high by historical standards. Before the virus flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any week, even during the Great Recession.

All told, 4.3 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits. Counting supplemental federal unemployment programs that were established to soften the economic damage from the virus, an estimated 18 million people are collecting some form of jobless aid.

Under December’s $900 billion financial aid package enacted by Congress, unemployment insurance recipients and those on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — a form of unemployment created for gig workers and contractors — receive an additional $300-a-week in federal jobless benefits on top of state benefits.

That bonus, set to expire on March 14, is likely to be enhanced to $400 a week and extended through August under the Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

For some on Long Island, the enhanced unemployment benefits have given them the opportunity to save some money.

"As funny as it sounds, in a way, it’s been a blessing in disguise," said Robert Cerruti, 34, a former package delivery driver who lost his job in late December.

Cerruti, who lives in an apartment in Lake Grove with his wife and two young daughters, said the $800 in unemployment benefits don’t completely cover his lost wages, but the free time at home has allowed the young couple to save big on child care.

"We’re actually saving a ton of money with me being home rather than me working," he said. "It’s crazy for me to even say that."

Cerruti said since he’s been home to look after his 8-month and 3-year-old, he and his wife are "almost saving a $1,000 a week" in day care and babysitting costs, as well as commuting expenses.

He said he is still actively looking for a job, but that many of the jobs he sees available are outside his experience or pay too little compared with what he made while working or even what he’s making unemployed.

"We’re paying all our bills on time," he said. Many of the jobs he sees available can’t match the benefits he is receiving. "If [they] can’t pay me more than that, I can’t take the job."

Jobless claims across the state grew to 59,509 last week, up from 48,473 the week prior.

With AP

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