More than 1.9 million New York residents have filed for unemployment insurance claims, according to sobering new data posted by the state Labor Department.
New York City accounts for nearly half the total — with 930,000 jobless residents filing claims from mid-March through May 7.
Those staggering numbers translate to 21 percent of the state workforce of 9.4 million. In other words, an unemployment rate of over 20 percent, said EJ McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy, who analyzed the most recent jobless data.
“This is well beyond anything we’ve ever seen before,” said McMahon, noting modern data-tracking going back to the 1970s.
The limited reopening of parts of upstate won’t help put much of a dent in the jobless rate because three-quarters, or 1.4 million, of the unemployed residents are in the city and its Long Island, Westchester, Rockland County and Hudson Valley suburbs.
In the city, the number of UI claims jumped from 56,974 from mid-March to early May of 2019 to 930,592 claims during the same period this year – an increase of 873,621 or 1,573 percent.
But no part of the state emerged unscathed.
“Measured by COVID-19 cases, New York’s coronavirus crisis has been overwhelmingly concentrated downstate — but upstate has hardly been immune to the consequences of the widespread economic shutdown ordered to contain the spread of the virus,” McMahon said.
Unemployment claims also skyrocketed by 1,535 percent on Long Island, 1,312 percent in Albany- capital district, 1,293 percent in Syracuse region, 1,154 percent in Rochester-Finger Lakes region, 1,442 percent in the Hudson Valley, 1,241 percent in Binghamton-Southern Tier, 1,245 percent in Buffalo region and 876 percent in the North County.
The breakdown by industry is equally grim: 358,967 workers in the accommodation and food service sector filed jobless claims since mid-March — a 2,558 percent increase from last year.
In the health care and social assistance sector, 225,780 filed jobless claims – a 2,042 percent increase.
And in the retail trade sector, 257,892 workers filed unemployment claims – a 2,586 percent increase.
Commenting on the jobless figures, state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Every state is facing a historic surge in unemployment claims and New York is no different, but we have moved faster and more aggressively than others to get beneficiaries their money, and in just over two months have paid out over three-and-a-half years’ worth of benefits.
“We know New Yorkers are struggling, and we know they need support now, and we are working day and night to get money into more New Yorkers’ hands faster.”
The Labor Department has come under fire for being unprepared for the massive wave of jobless claims — with sporadic crashes of its website and jammed phone lines. It has added more staffers and streamlined the unemployment application to help clear up the backlog.
Labor officials said it is processing 2 million claims during the pandemic, compared to 833,000 claims for all of last year. It has paid out $7.4 billion to jobless residents since March 1 compared to $2.1 billion for all of 2019.