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More than 50,000 LIers filed for unemployment last week, data show

State employees at a state Department of Labor

State employees at a state Department of Labor call center in Albany have dealt with a surge in calls from residents seeking to file jobless claims. Credit: NYS Department of Labor

More than 23,000 Nassau residents and nearly 30,000 Suffolk residents filed for unemployment insurance last week, according to Labor Department data released Friday.

During the week ended March 28, 23,241 Nassau workers filed unemployment claims, a 3,839% increase over the 590 residents who filed the same week last year. In Suffolk, 29,149 residents filed claims last week, up 3,438% from the 824 who filed the same week a year ago.

In total, workers on Long Island filed more than 52,390 claims last week, more than 37 times the 1,414 that applied the same week in 2019.

As weekly unemployment claims at the local, state and national level continue to rise, the scope of the economic disruption COVID-19 has caused is becoming more clear, said Gregory DeFreitas, senior labor economics professor at Hofstra University and director of the Center for Labor and Democracy.

"When the initial claims stop rising, that’s usually a pretty good sign that the worst may be winding down," DeFreitas said. "When they start falling, you are probably beginning a recovery, but that’s a way off I’m sure.”

"The next couple weeks are going to be super important," he said. "There’ll be a big surge next week."

Among the new state data were demographic comparisons showing that more Long Island women — 29,742 — filed for unemployment insurance last week than men, who filed 22,648 claims. The higher number of female filers was also apparent in claims data for two weeks ago, which showed that 4,405 women filed for benefits, outpacing the 3,356 men who filed.

Normally, there are “no unemployment differences between men and women on average,” but similar gender disparities were apparent in the recent data from most of the state’s economic regions except for New York City, DeFreitas said.

Statewide, 193,902 women filed for unemployment last week, 18,779 more than the 175,123 men who filed in the same period. 

Part of the disparity, DeFreitas said, is that women — who make up a higher percentage of the part-time workforce — might have faced a greater degree of job cuts initially as a result of COVID-19, especially with the impact the long economic pause has had on the service industry.

Additionally, some women may have had to leave positions in greater numbers to stay at home amid the rapid closure of schools across the state.

“It may be that families decided that the woman should file first and sort things out with the kids at home,” DeFreitas said. Responsibility for child care “may have fallen disproportionately on women.”

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