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Iowa’s unemployment claims drop for the third straight week

By: - June 4, 2020 10:18 am
A woman holds a baby while working at a laptop.

A mother holds a baby while working at her laptop. (Photo by Getty Images)

The number of ongoing unemployment claims in Iowa has declined for the third straight week.

The number of continuing, weekly unemployment claims for the week ending May 30 was 165,195 — down 13,000 from the previous week.

The number of new claims filed last week was 6,920. The previous week, the state handled 13,653 new claims.

The unemployment-benefit numbers for the previous week, which ended May 23, reflect new revisions made this week. Iowa Workforce Development initially reported 14,586 initial new claims for that week, but the number has since been scaled back to 13,653. The number of ongoing claims for that same week has also been revised downward, from 180,679 to 178,619.

Although the numbers remain high relative to pre-pandemic levels, they are far below the peak reached during the initial spread of COVID-19 in Iowa.

The state’s current payout of unemployment benefits might be artificially low due to the way it has handled claims during the pandemic. When an employer contests an unemployment claim made by a former employee, IWD typically schedules a fact-finding hearing so both sides can argue their case.

IWD suspended its fact-finding hearings for the first six weeks of the pandemic as it shifted workers to processing the record increase in initial unemployment claims and to handling customer-service calls and emails.

In the first week of May, the department started scheduling fact-finding hearings again, prioritizing the oldest claims first. Decisions made by fact-finders can still be appealed to an administrative law judge at IWD.

With regard to the newly revised numbers for unemployment, IWD says it relies upon weekly unemployment data released by the U.S. Department of Labor in reporting unemployment for the state of Iowa, and adopts any revisions made by the federal agency to the previously published data.

Unemployment insurance benefit payments totaled $51,043,465.89 for the week of May 30, and the following industries had the most claims:

  • Manufacturing: 1,897
  • Health care and social assistance: 784
  • Self-employed, independent contractors, etc.: 553
  • Retail: 511
  • Accommodation and food service: 462

A total of $105,700,800 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits was paid during the week of May 24-30, 2020.

A total of $4,606,876 was paid in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits during the week of May 17-23, 2020.

IWD began processing Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits on May 27, 2020 and so far a total of $7.5 million in PEUC benefits have been paid.

Last week, IWD announced a new set of unemployment benefits for Iowans.

The CARES Act created Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides 13 weeks of benefits after an individual exhausts the original 13 weeks of state benefits. The program covers March 29 to Dec. 26.

Payments will be the same as the state programs, but also can include back payments and $600 a week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program through the end of July.

After a person exhausts state aid and the PEUC benefits, they can get money through the State Extended Benefits program, which has been triggered by the high unemployment rate related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That program adds another 13 weeks of regular state benefits.

People in the unemployment system will be automatically shifted into the new programs as they qualify.

 

 

 

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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