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Iowa Unemployment Claims Jump For Second Straight Week

Restaurants are no longer serving dine-in meals, like The Continental in Des Moines.
John Pemble
IPR file photo
Restaurants are no longer serving dine-in meals, like The Continental in Des Moines.

The number of Iowa workers seeking unemployment assistance grew at a faster pace last week as 58,453 people filed claims with Iowa Workforce Development. That adds up to 100,343 initial unemployment claims over two weeks as the state expanded business closures to ease the severity of the coronavirus outbreak.

Iowa State University economist David Swenson said the number of claims far outpaces unemployment during the Great Recession.

“This is unprecedented,” Swenson said. “Iowa’s unemployment peaked in 2010 and that was 47,000 unemployed persons, so this is more than twice as much.”

The largest number of filings, 12,519, came from the category that includes restaurants and hotels. The health care and social services sector accounted for 7,490 filings and manufacturing added 7,168.

“The sectors that are being hit the hardest, of course, are those that allow for the congregation of people, things that were closed down early on. It's going to be restaurants, salons, things that involve human contact,” Swenson said. “Over the course of this coronavirus outbreak we will expect to see also other impacts as this spreads into other industries.”

Monthly unemployment surveys are likely to eventually show an even larger total number of people who have lost jobs during the outbreak, Swenson said, because not all workers apply for unemployment assistance.

The federal CARES Act passed last week does expand unemployment eligibility to include people who are self-employed, freelancers, independent contractors and nonprofit workers. It also extends the time an unemployed worker may receive assistance and adds an additional $600 per week on top of payments made by states.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa