(The Center Square) – Fewer Louisiana residents made new state unemployment claims last week than the week before, though well over 100,000 people still are receiving benefits.
For the week ending Oct. 31, 8,419 people made initial unemployment claims, compared to 9,943 the previous week, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic slowdown imposed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, about 2,000 or so people would make new claims weekly. For example, during the week ending Nov. 2, 2019, 1,762 new claims were filed, the LWC says.
The unemployment insurance continued claims for the week ending Oct. 31 decreased to 115,350 from the previous week’s total of 128,378. For a pre-pandemic comparison, the continued claims were above the comparable figure of 13,852 for the week ending Nov. 2, 2019.
Louisiana, like many other states, must borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to pay legally required unemployment benefits. While lawmakers during the recent special session were able to find $85 million to shore up the fund, a long-term solution was not identified.
However, legislators did pass measures that will prevent the higher business taxes and benefit reductions for workers that otherwise would have been required when the unemployment insurance fund dwindles.
The economic restrictions meant to control the spread of COVID-19 have led to widespread job losses and unprecedented demand on the fund. The balance has fallen from more than $1 billion before the pandemic to nearly zero. While lawmakers last legislative session were able to find $85 million to shore up the fund, a long-term solution was not identified.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission will borrow money from the federal government to continue paying benefits through the end of the year, a process that normally would trigger additional fees for employers. State officials still are hoping for direct federal aid that would solve the problem. Other solutions could involve state surplus dollars or a bond Issue.
David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for the Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.