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Initial unemployment claims fall again in Indiana but remain higher than Great Recession
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Initial unemployment claims fall again in Indiana but remain higher than Great Recession

Initial unemployment claims fall again in Indiana but remain near all-time high

Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne gives an update on federal unemployment programs in a Friday afternoon press conference.

Hoosiers filed 30,691 initial unemployment claims last week, down from a peak of 139,174 during the week that ended March 28 but still above the height of the Great Recession.

Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said the number of initial claims has fallen steadily every week since coronavirus was declared a global health pandemic and much of the world's economy ground to a halt in March. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the previous high for unemployment claims in Indiana was 27,937 on Dec. 27, 2008.

Indiana made 917,036 employment insurance payments in May and has distributed $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits to displaced workers since March, Payne said. That includes $440 million in state benefits and $1 billion in federal benefits, from the extra $600 a week included in the CARES Act.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has handled nearly 2 million calls since April, including more than 350,000 in May so far. 

"Additional staffing and technology changes continue to help us to improve," Payne said. "Our average call wait time has been reduced by 50% between April 24 and May 11. Our claims volume of course is extremely high." 

Greater automation has allowed the state from handling 63,000 issues weekly to resolving 270,000 issues weekly.

"This is a positive trend, but we know it has to go deeper," he said.

Some claims take longer than 21 days because they have to be reviewed, where a state employee has to track down the claimant and their employer to resolve questions. The three most common issues are deductible income issues, employment status issues, which are full- or part-time issues, and voluntarily quit concerns.

"Each requires a dedicated person to investigate," he said. "We can't automate this. We have automated out as much as we can. We're trending in the right direction, but we know it's deep enough for every single Hoosier who has filed for unemployment benefits to feel this positive trend. But we will get there. Each and every Hoosier who is eligible for unemployment benefits will receive unemployment benefits."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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