Unemployment Claims Still High as Louisiana Reopens

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Even as Louisiana businesses are cautiously reopened amid coronavirus concerns, large numbers of people are seeking unemployment benefits in the state.

The state labor department said Thursday that first-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 21,879 last week. “Continued claims” for people who had filed in previous weeks totaled more than 305,000. The continued claims number was down from more than 320,000 in mid-May. But it was well above the fewer than 16,000 continued claims for the same week last year.

Louisiana was considered a hot spot for the disease caused by the new coronavirus in the early spring, leading to restrictions on public gatherings, including church services, and the closure of many businesses. A steady decline in hospitalizations and the percentage of positive cases amid continued testing has led to an easing of some restrictions in hopes of reinvigorating the economy.

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Louisiana’s COVID-19 death toll hit 2,874 Thursday. Total confirmed cases number 44,472. Hospitalizations ticked up slightly to 553 but remain well below an April peak. A decline in hospitalizations and in the percentage of cases relative to testing have been key factors in the state’s decision to loosen restrictions.

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