Record number of Americans apply for unemployment as COVID-19 pandemic worsens

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LANSING, MI (WILX) - Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's nearly five times the amount of the previous record from 1982. The jump in joblessness is undoubtedly the result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the United States could see more people out of work as the economy continues to spiral.

In Michigan, the Department of Labor says the state is seeing an unprecedented number of applications as well. As of Thursday morning, more than 120,000 applications had been filed. Applications have been flooding in online and over the phone. Officials from the Unemployment Insurance Agency says the office gets a minimum of 17,000 applications filed every day. These high numbers are slowing down the department's system.

"There's definitely frustration from the public because of those increase numbers due to COVID-19, ...and we are trying to accommodate them as much as we can," said Kimberly Berry, the deputy director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency. "It's all hands on deck."

Unemployed workers trying to file their applications are finding it difficult to file claims, saying that delays are happening online and over the phone.

"It took me basically 12 hours to get my claims filed," Dwayne Murray, a recently laid-off worker, told News 10. "I was very frustrated. I was to the point where I was like, 'I'm just not gonna do it.'"

The frustrations felt by applicants is not going unnoticed. The Michigan Department of Labor says it's adding new servers daily to make the online application process faster.

Applicants are encouraged to file claims between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. to avoid disruptions or delays. The state says it will take time to improve the system, as the number of applications is expected to keep rising throughout the pandemic.

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