Almost a quarter-million workers filed for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts last week, a record total that dwarfs even the worst period of the Great Recession and suggests the economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic remains acute, as state leaders make plans to restart stalled businesses.
In the last six weeks, more than 30 million Americans nationwide and 725,000 Massachusetts workers have filed unemployment claims amid widespread economic shutdowns, according to the latest weekly figures from the U.S. Department of Labor.
After tapering for several weeks, unemployment claims surged in the week that ended April 25, as the state began accepting applications from gig workers and the self-employed, who are typically ineligible for benefits. Some 171,598 of these workers submitted claims in the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to the state.
Another 70,552 workers filed initial applications for conventional unemployment insurance, the state said. The U.S. Labor Department reported a slightly higher number of conventional claims in Massachusetts, 70,714. Using either figure, the state's total unemployment claims exceeded 242,000.
The previous single-week record was 181,423, set in late March. And in the worst week of the Great Recession, 22,028 Massachusetts workers sought jobless benefits.
Ongoing claims, which show how many people continued to seek more than one week of support, totaled 528,178 in Massachusetts through April 18, according to Thursday's report.
The federal data only include traditional unemployment claims and do not count previously ineligible workers, such as contractors and the self-employed, who can access benefits through the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program Congress created.
With additional reporting from State House News Service
This article was originally published on April 30, 2020.