SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Another 141,049 people in Illinois filed for unemployment last week, the third of an unprecedented period of jobless claims, although the number represented a 30% drop from the previous record-setting week.
The preliminary figure from the U.S. Labor Department accompanied 5.2 million claims nationwide as the closing of nonessential businesses because of the spread of the coronavirus continues to buffet the economy. The national total over the last month stretched to 22 million, the worst run of lost jobs on record.
The state total was down from a record-setting 201,041 the week of April 4, which in turn broke the mark set the week before that of 178,421. Previously, the high mark in Illinois was just 25,800 on Jan. 9, 1982.
The influx has overwhelmed the Illinois Department of Employment Security. House Republicans took Gov. J.B. Pritzker to task this week, criticizing his response to a swamped computer system and never-answered phone calls from some of the 654,222 residents who have filed first-time unemployment claims since March 1.
Pritzker responded with a summary of the work consultants and his administration have done to load the online filing program to a larger mainframe, expand phone lines and extend benefits. The Democratic governor noted that the state's program was designed in 2010, just after the Great Recession of 2008, and built to withstand a calamity of that size, while no one could imagine one bigger.