Unemployment

A life-sized wood carving is adorned with a face covering in front of the Pioneer Saloon in Ketchum on Aug. 16.

The number of Idaho residents applying for unemployment increased 12 percent last week after three weeks of declines, the Idaho Department of Labor said Thursday.

The agency said it received 3,644 new claims as the state’s recovery during the coronavirus pandemic remains fitful.

“While there is still some pain out there, the overall conditions seem to be improving somewhat,” said Craig Shaul, research analyst supervisor at the agency. “With the pandemic still in play and social distancing and whatnot, there seems to be challenges that are still persisting, especially for those industries that rely on interaction between people.”

Shaul said it wasn’t clear what caused last week’s bump in new claims, though he suggested it could be a seasonal shift of some kind.

The agency said the overall number of people collecting unemployment dropped 7 percent to 18,772. That’s the 15th week of consecutive declines since the pandemic entered Idaho in March and Republican Gov. Brad Little issued a stay-at-home order as infections surged.

That order ended April 30, and most businesses are open under current guidelines.

Through Wednesday, Idaho had more than 28,000 coronavirus infections and 291 deaths, Johns Hopkins University reports.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Idaho rose to 16.2 percent through Wednesday from 16 percent, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Among states and including Puerto Rico, that makes Idaho fifth-worst in the nation.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested. Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The Labor Department reported it paid out $11.9 million in claims during the week that ended last Friday. That’s about $3 million less than the previous week. The agency said the drop was caused by the end of a federal program that paid an additional $600 per week in benefits.

Little on Monday announced Idaho will take part in President Donald Trump’s program that pays $300 in federal benefits if the state contributes $100.

The Labor Department didn’t have an estimate on the number of Idaho residents who currently receive less than $100 a week in state unemployment benefits who will not be eligible for the $300.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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