Jobless claims decline in Alabama as economy reopens

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In this May 27, 2020, photo, health care workers talk outside a Lowndes County coronavirus testing site in Hayneville, Ala. Experts say Lowndes County and nearby poor, mostly black counties in rural Alabama are now facing a “perfect storm” as infections tick up: a lack of access to medical care combined with poverty and the attendant health problems that can worsen the outcomes for those who become sick. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

New unemployment claims declined by nearly 25% in Alabama over a week as state businesses continued reopening during the pandemic, statistics showed Thursday.

More than 550,000 people in all have filed for jobless benefits since state-ordered shutdowns began in March to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, and a report by the state Labor Department showed thousands are still losing jobs because of the pandemic.

But while the agency said 21,335 people applied for benefits last week, that was down from 27,920 the week before. About 60% of the new claims were related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, the state said.

The single highest number of weekly claims filed amid the pandemic was 106,739 in early April. More than 290,000 people are currently receiving unemployment benefits statewide, the department said.

Nearly 19,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Alabama, and more than 650 have died, statistics show. While most people recover from COVID-19, it is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with other health problems.

Hospitalizations have held steady or increased slightly as the state loosened restrictions to help revive the economy, and an increased number of people have tested positive for the virus. Health officials say it is unclear whether the increasing caseload is due to more testing or additional disease.

The state’s highest infection and unemployment rates are in the historically impoverished counties of the Black Belt.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.