Initial unemployment claims fell sharply the week ending May 2, following a one-week spike in the last reporting period. According to preliminary data from the Alabama Department of Labor, 25,932 people statewide filed unemployment claims the week ending May 2, representing the lowest number since March 21. Still, the total number since the COVID-19 pandemic began now exceeds 426,000, or roughly 19.32 percent of the state’s civilian workforce.
But only 381,732 claims since the week ending March 28 have been marked as “COVID-19 related,” which ADOL Communications Director Tara Hutchison explained is a self-reported feature of the application process.
According to the most recent data, Baldwin County added another 1,280 initial claims last week, bringing its six-week total to 23,232, or 24.2 percent of its civilian labor force. In Mobile County, another 3,353 people filed for unemployment last week, bringing its six-week total to 42,600 or 22.8 percent of its civilian labor force.
Over the past seven weeks, Mobile and Baldwin counties have the second and sixth highest total numbers of unemployment filings in the state, respectively. Jefferson County leads the state with 67,996 claims filed since March 14, with Madison, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery counties ranking third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
For the week ending May 2, the majority of claims filed were from employees in the Industry Not Available (unclassified) section (8,523), followed by manufacturing (5,228), accommodation and food services (2,944), administrative and support and waste management and remediation services (2,502), health care and social assistance (2,358) and retail trade (2,294).
Notably, Gov. Kay Ivey lifted business restrictions on retail May 1, allowing stores to reopen at 50 percent of their building occupancy. Still closed are “close contact” services such as salons, barber shops and gyms, as well as restaurants to dine-in customers.
Further analysis of the data over the past seven weeks indicates that of Alabama’s four Combined Statistical Areas (CSA), a greater percentage of the total workforce in the Mobile-Daphne-Fairhope CSA has filed for unemployment than anywhere else in the state. With a rate of unemployment filings equaling roughly 23.3 percent of the civilian workforce, the Mobile area leads the Birmingham area by 4.5 percent, the Huntsville area by 5.89 percent and the Dothan area by 8.03 percent.
On Monday, the ADOL reported that it had disbursed more than $503 million in COVID-19 related unemployment compensation benefits since March, representing 511,594 weeks paid. Of those funds, $247,872,000 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the $600 stimulus benefit added to weekly unemployment compensation benefits. $5,201,412 represent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funds, and $826,734 represent Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) funds – all of which are federal funds provided by the CARES Act passed March 28.
The remainder, roughly $183.8 million, has been paid out of the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, where benefits range from $25 to $275 weekly per claimant, based on lost compensation. The report said ADOL has issued payments to 84 percent of those filing COVID-19 related active claims since March 16, 2020.
“We continue to work on a daily basis to improve the systems to make them more efficient and to streamline payments,” said Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We hear the complaints and take them seriously. ADOL is working around the clock to ensure that everyone who is entitled to these funds receives them. Even though we’ve made payments to 84 percent of those who have filed, we know there are many still waiting, and you have not been forgotten.”