Applications for unemployment benefits in Montana have declined — but are still much higher than normal — as the state continued to lift closures designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.
The number of new applications for job assistance submitted in Montana last week fell to 2,874, according to the U.S. Employment and Training Administration. That’s a decrease of nearly 25% from the claims filed a week earlier, but an increase of nearly 280% from the number of applications at the same time last year.
As of May 23, 47,350 Montana residents were receiving unemployment benefits, which is about 10% of all eligible workers.
Montana has processed 108,572 claims for unemployment since March 14, nearly 24% of the state's workforce.
The maximum weekly unemployment benefit for Montana workers is $1,152, which includes the $600 federal supplement added as economic fallout from the coronavirus hit the U.S. hard.
The state made more than 49,000 unemployment insurance payments totaling over $48 million last week, the Labor Department said.
Those payments include regular unemployment payments and payments to the self-employed and gig economy workers who otherwise wouldn't be eligible for unemployment coverage.
“As the phased reopening of Montana’s economy continues, we expect to see more Montanans returning to work,” said Brenda Nordlund, acting director of the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.
Nationally, nearly 1.9 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week and 21.5 million people received jobless aid, federal officials said.
Meanwhile, Montana has reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 from nearly 4,000 tests run from Monday through Wednesday, and 54 cases within the past seven days, the state health department said.
Ten of the new cases confirmed this week are in Gallatin County, six are in Big Horn County and four are in Yellowstone County. There have been 539 cases statewide, with only one person still hospitalized, and 17 deaths.
Big Horn County health officials tested about 1,600 residents in two days last week. Four people who participated but didn’t have symptoms tested positive for COVID-19, the health department said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.