For the second week in a row, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing a record number of South Dakotans onto unemployment rolls.
There were 6,645 claims for unemployment assistance filed last week in South Dakota. That’s the most-ever in the available data from the U.S. Department of Labor, which goes back to 1987.
And it's more than three time higher than the state’s previous record set just one week earlier, when 1,761 people filed for unemployment (that number has been adjusted by the Labor Department from the originally reported 1,703).
The spiking numbers are caused by social-distancing practices and localized business closure orders that are pushing people out of work as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.
Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday – a day before the release of the new claims data – that the tide of claims may still be rising. She’s urging people to file online at RAclaims.sd.gov instead of by phone.
“There’s no need to call in and to check on a claim,” Noem said. “If you do do this online, we appreciate that. That will help with shortening our wait times on the call.”
Records are falling nationally, too. About 6 million people filed for unemployment last week across the United States. That doubled the previous record of about 3 million from the prior week.
The claims go to state unemployment trust funds. Employers pay taxes to the funds. When workers lose a job through no fault of their own, they can apply to their state’s fund for weekly payments while they’re out of work. Congress passed legislation recently to make the payments bigger and longer in duration during the pandemic.