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Job Service helping people with COVID unemployment


Last updated 6/11/2020 at 11:52am

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment numbers have risen and local job services have had to adjust its services.

Job Service-Havre Manager Carol Lamey said Job Service has helped Montanans get through unemployment with programs and by answering their questions.

While the offices still are closed to the public, she said, the Havre Job Service is going to continue to work and is here for Montanans in their coverage area of Hill, Blaine, Phillips and Liberty counties and part of Chouteau County.

She said she doesn’t know yet when the Job Service’s doors will open.

“We’re still and we’re trying to get people right now while maybe they aren’t working to spend some time on their application, working on their resume, we can help them with their interviewing skills — we may have to do it over the phone or we could potentially use Skype or something like that,” she said. “Getting people prepared when this is all done that they’re ready to go.”

She said the Job Service is still working with its training programs, the Adult Program, Dislocated Workers and the Help Link programs.

The dislocated worker program, she said, is for anybody that loses their job.

People who are interested in retraining or learning a new skill that will make them more employable the Job Service can look at paying for those costs, she added.

The adult program is available for low-income people and the Help Link is for people who are on the expanded Medicaid, she said.

“We’re also still working with employers and trying to help them with job descriptions, so that we figure if they know what they need it’s easier to look for that,” Lamey said. “If people understand what an employer is looking for than they know better whether or not that’s something they are interested in doing.”

For more information, people can contact the Job Service-Havre Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 265-5847.

Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Research has officially declared the economy is in a recession, no longer a downturn, a press release says.

During this recession, Montana Department of Labor and Industry Chief Economist Barbara Wagner said, Hill County’s unemployment rate spiked up to 8.7 percent, the state went up to 11.3 percent and the national unemployment rate is at 13.3 percent.

She said she anticipates that the unemployment rate for the state of Montana will come down.

She thinks that, she said, because the national economy has been improving and through the re-opening phases, more Montanans are able to go back to work.

The unemployment claims have been dropping since they spiked in April, she added.

As of March 28, 24,067 initial unemployment claims were filed in the state of Montana and 32,858 was the number of Montanans filing a continued unemployment insurance claim, the official state website says.

Before COVID, Jan. 11, 1,755  initial unemployment claims were filed in the state of Montana and 11,756 was the number of Montanans filing a continued unemployment insurance claim.

In Hill County, 20 people made initial claims and 94 continued making claims.

The national numbers of initial claims was 338,550 and continued claims was at 2,141,587.

As of May 9, the most recent date with data for all three sectors, the number of U.S. initial claims was 2,356,626 and continued claim was 22,794,145; for Montana 3,762 people filed initial claims with 58,905 continued and in Hill County 48 people made initial claims and 419 continued.

“This was a rapid change in our economy,” Wagner said. “Certainly, COVID came into the country fairly quickly, at least in Montana, we shut down and that caused a very rapid change in our economy and we’ve seen that by the very large spike up in unemployment with our rate currently at 11.3 percent.”

Prior to COVID, she said, the unemployment rate in Montana was quite low at 3.4 percent.

The state went from one of the lowest unemployment rates it has ever had to the highest record number, she said.

“We’ve already seen improvements in our economy, but it probably will take a lot longer to come all the way back down to where we were at,” she added. “That is partially because of COVID and how we need to adjust for those and whether or not we further shutdowns will also affect future performance.”

In January and February of this year, before COVID, the unemployment rate was at 3.5 percent in Montana, in March it hit 3.6 percent and in April it spiked up to 11.3 percent, she said.

She said in Hill County the January unemployment rate was at 4.1, February 3.6, March 3.7 and then in April it rose 8.7 percent.

The national unemployment rate before COVID, Wagner said, was at 3.6 in January, 3.5 in February, 4.4 in March then in April it spiked up to 14.7  and in May it was 13.3 percent.

May’s unemployment rate for the state of Montana and Hill County has yet to be announced, she said.

The federal government also has had a variety of assistance available, from extended and increased unemployment benefits to assistance offered through the Small Business Administration.

This was part of the $2 trillion package CARES Act passed by Congress in March to help people, businesses and local governments deal with the novel coronavirus 2019 pandemic.

Unemployment Insurance maximum benefits were increased by $600 per week and benefits were extended to four months, which this applies to all workers whether they work for small, medium or large businesses, along with self-employed and gig workers.

A Small Business Paycheck Protection Program was put in place to provide loans for small businesses, nonprofits, vet and self-employed individuals to help cover eight weeks of payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utility costs that will be up to 100 percent forgivable for Main Street businesses that fully maintain their workforce.

The program was amended earlier this month, extending the covered period, giving employers 12 weeks to spend the proceeds and reducing the amount that must be spent on payroll to 60 percent.

Wagner said programs like that will help with the recovery.

“Spending those stimulus dollars in our economy will help us recover more quickly,” she said. “... That type of funding in our economy helps to stimulate the economy and bring it back to normal quickly, so we do have some income support to help the economy recover quickly after this and that should restore us more quickly than it would have otherwise.

“I am remaining fairly positive about having a recovery, but it will be slow as we come back — it’ll be slower than it was in the turn around, of course, but I do think depending on when may or may not have future outbreaks, but I right now Montana is looking like we are recovering fairly quickly,” she added. “Our claims are dropping a lot and that’s all good news for the Montana economy.”


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