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Nation, local states see massive increase in unemployment claims

(AP) A record-high number of people applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs engulfed the United States in the face of a near-total economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The surge in weekly applications for benefits far exceeded the previous record set in 1982. Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into what most economists expect to be deep and painful recession.

Missouri is changing its rules for people seeking unemployment as the state sees a massive increase in claims from people who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. Federal unemployment data released Thursday showed 40,508 Missourians filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending March 21, compared to 4,016 the previous week. State officials said Wednesday that Missouri was temporarily ending its one-week waiting period and work-search requirements for people claiming unemployment. Missouri has reported over 500 cases of the virus, and eight COVID-19 deaths.

The number of jobless workers in Kansas who filed initial unemployment claims last week was 12 times as high as it was the week before as measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus took their toll on the economy. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that Kansas had almost 23,700 initial claims for unemployment for the seven-day period ending Saturday. The department said the figure for the previous week was less than 1,800. The increase was 1,250%. It was easily the largest percentage jump in at least 20 years. Some 60% of the state’s residents face local stay-at-home orders.

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