The regional jobless surge ebbs

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The pandemic-driven unemployment wave in the Rochester region might be receding.

In the week ended April 18, the Finger Lakes region had 8,503 initial claims for unemployment benefits, data released by the state Labor Department today show. That compares with filings of 18,808, 18,523, 25,037 and 4,881 in the four prior weeks.

While less than half the prior week’s tally, the new figure is more than 1,000 percent higher than the 729 initial claims filed in the same week a year ago.

The total number of initial claims in the Finger Lakes region since New York’s coronavirus lockdown began now has reached 75,752.

The region’s jobless count in January—the most recent data available—was 26,800, or 4.7 percent of the labor force. Assuming that count remained steady until the coronavirus shutdown took effect on March 22, the total jobless number in the Rochester labor market has now climbed to approximately 102,500, bringing the unemployment rate to nearly 20 percent. 

The state defines the labor market here as metropolitan Rochester—Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Wayne, Genesee, Livingston and Yates counties—plus Seneca and Wyoming counties.

Western New York—the Buffalo metro area plus Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties—and other upstate labor markets also posted dramatically smaller initial-claims figures this week, as did New York City.

Nationwide, initial claims for unemployment benefits continue to mount, though as in the Finger Lakes region, the pace has slowed. This morning, in the U.S. Labor Department’s latest weekly report, another 4.4 million workers joined the ranks of the unemployed. In the last four weeks, the number of initial unemployment claims has soared to more than 26 million—a number that exceeds the net number of jobs created in the nearly decade-long period since the end of the Great Recession.

The latest increase was less than the 5.2 million filings last week, the 6.6 million filings in the week ended April 4 and the record 6.9 million filings in the week ended March 28.

Real-time labor market estimates put the current U.S. jobless rate a week ago at 20.2 percent, up from 4.5 percent in the second week of March.

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor. All Rochester Beacon coronavirus articles are collected here.

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