SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota unemployment claims soared nearly 900 percent last week, as attempts to limit the spread of coronavirus clobbered the state's economy.
The state's jobless data, published Thursday, March 26, showed a total of 1,703 new filings for unemployment benefits the week of March 15-21. New filings in previous weeks hovered at about 200 per week.
Gov. Kristi Noem called the new data a "dramatic" surge and described the week's applicants as a unique group.
"Most of these individuals were brand new people signing up for the program that had never been on unemployment before, and now they're signing up because their jobs have been affected by this virus spreading across the state," she said.
Noem cautioned to expect the number of unemployment filings to surge even higher, based on what state officials are seeing this week.
"We are seeing almost that number of unemployment claims per day this week," she said. "So expect big, huge numbers next week -- people signing up for unemployment, because literally our economic activity has dropped to almost nothing."
The rising number of jobless claims is a consideration for Noem as she attempts to balance the public health need to limit person-to-person contact to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state with the harm being done to paychecks and the state's overall economy, she said.
As of Thursday, the state has found 46 confirmed cases of the virus, with evidence it is spreading undetected in seven counties, including some of the state's most populous.
The state unemployment call center added 16 people to its 11-member staff and added 23 new phone lines to the center's current 92 lines, Noem said at a Monday briefing.
The state's spike in unemployment filings mirrored those from states. Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last month, according to the Department of Labor, setting a record for seasonally adjusted initial claims. The previous high was 695,000 set in October 1982, the department said.
Hardest-hit industries were the service sector, such as food services and hospitality, as well as health care, arts and entertainment, transportation and manufacturing, the department said.
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.