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NY jobless claims spike 1,000% in some regions, officials say

Employees at the state Department of Labor's call

Employees at the state Department of Labor's call center in Albany on Thursday help people who have been laid off because of the coronavirus apply for jobless benefits.  Credit: NYS Department of Labor

New claims for jobless benefits are soaring in New York State, up more than 1,000% in some regions compared with the average number of claims per day, officials said Thursday.

The state Department of Labor couldn’t immediately identify the regions experiencing a spike in unemployment insurance filings. New York City and its suburbs, including Long Island, are the largest employment centers.

DOL spokeswoman Deanna Cohen called “unprecedented” the number of new claims, telephone calls and log-ins to the department’s Web pages about jobless benefits.

“We have added server capacity and dedicated more than 700 staff members to address the influx,” she said.

DOL had received 159,000 phone calls by noon on Thursday compared with a pre-coronavirus level of 10,000 per day. Daily website log-ins are averaging 250,000, up 400% from the usual level. 

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits wasn’t immediately available on Thursday.

Data for the state’s regions is usually released monthly; in February, there were 11,300 new claims on Long Island. Statewide, about 200,000 people filed for jobless benefits per week in February, according to the most recent available data.

Claims are only accepted via the DOL website and phone line. The state hasn't allowed in-person applications since 2005.

The surge in unemployment filings is coming as DOL staggers the days in which claims will be accepted. Staggering began on Wednesday.

Claimants with last names starting with A through F should apply on Mondays, G-N on Tuesdays and O-Z on Wednesdays. Thursdays and Fridays are for people who missed their filing day.

The seven-day waiting period for people to begin receiving benefits has been waived by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for those who are out of work because of the coronavirus.

Claimants may apply online at labor.ny.gov./unemploymentassistance.shtm, starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at different times depending on the day.

They also can file by calling 888-209-8124, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday. Saturday hours have been added, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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