The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the jobless rate to double-digit levels and created an extremely high backlog of unemployment claims that could have laid off workers waiting for up to eight weeks to get checks.
Locally, unemployment in Kenosha and Racine counties has steadily risen and now rivals the combined rate of the first three months of the year, according to statistics released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
The rate can be attributed to the number of people who were temporarily laid off or furloughed from their jobs when businesses began to make workforce adjustments to cope with the pandemic.
In April, the unemployment rate in Kenosha County was 16.1%; in January, it was 4.8% in the county and 5.1% in the city.
In Racine County, the unemployment rate was 15.5% in April. At the beginning of the year, the county rate was 5.1%. It was 6.1% in the city.
The DWD said unemployment rates increased in all 72 Wisconsin counties over the month and over the year. It said county rates ranged from 9.7% to as high as 26.25%.
Additionally, the rate increased in Wisconsin’s 34 largest cities over the month and over the year. Those rates ranged from 9.9% to 21.1%.
The high rate, according to statistics released by state Sen. Van Wanggaard, (R-Racine), following a special Senate Committee Labor and Regulatory Reform hearing, has created a backlog of more than 675,000 claims.
Wanggaard said that more than 30,000 of those claims have come from jobless people in the two local counties.
“Someone waiting eight weeks to get their checks, that’s not acceptable,” Wanggaard said. “We need to get that fixed so that people can put food on the table, make their car payments and pay their rent.”
Ben Jedd, a spokesman for the DWD, said the department has 1,400 people, some of whom are new hires and some people who have been transferred from other divisions of the department and in from other departments.
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