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Unemployment Claims Top 30K Amid Coronavirus Slowdown

Nearly 15K People Filed For Unemployment On Wednesday Alone

Unionized hospitality workers, including Luis Estrada, wait in line to apply for unemployment
Unionized hospitality workers, including Luis Estrada, at left, wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy Friday, March 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

The early days of social distancing under the new coronavirus hit the state’s workforce especially hard as more than 30,000 people filed initial unemployment claims in just four days.

The numbers represented a staggering jump from the same period a year ago, when about 5,200 people filed for unemployment over the course of a full week.

RELATED: How Does Unemployment Insurance Work? Wisconsin Officials Explain

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Workers and businesses have been hit hard in Wisconsin as many people stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. That was especially true on Tuesday after the state ordered a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people and ordered bars and restaurants to close aside from takeout and delivery service.

The numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor paint a picture of that change as the week unfolded.

Day by day, initial unemployment claims grew, with 1,499 on Sunday, 4,392 on Monday, 8,603 on Tuesday and a staggering 14,988 on Wednesday after the state’s order took effect.

“It’s a pretty rapid increase,” said Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman in an interview. “I’m not sure what numbers will show up tomorrow, but we can probably expect an increase as well.”

Unemployment claims are paid by the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which currently has a balance of roughly $2 billion.

“Two-billion dollars sounds like a lot and it is a lot, but we haven’t encountered something like this in a long time,” Frostman said.

The DWD encouraged people who need to file for unemployment to do so online in order to help the state manage its growing caseload.