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Department of Workforce Development datashows that in the week ending on March 7, 2020, there were 41,015 unemployment claims statewide.
- For the week of May 22, 202, there were 127,745 claims.
Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has touched just about every aspect of daily life, including education, travel and, of course, employment.
To deal with an unprecedented sudden loss of jobs, state and federal officials created a host of enhanced benefits for laid off workers. After a year of extensions of those benefits, many Republicans argue the extra money now is actually keeping unemployed people from working.
In joining that debate, state Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, tweeted this on June 2, 2021 about how many in Wisconsin are getting unemployment benefits:
"Before the pandemic, just over 40,000 were on continuing UI claims. Now, there are well over 100,000 on state or federal UI benefits."
The tweet came on the day Republicans who control the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee declined to put an additional $15 million toward running Wisconsin's unemployment benefits program, rejecting request from Gov. Tony Evers.
"There's a lot of federal money available for these types of (unemployment insurance) projects," Born told reporters.
When it comes to how many people are claiming unemployment benefits, then and now, is Born right?
Born’s tweet included a graphic pulled from figures from a state Department of Workforce Development document, "Continuing Unemployment Claims by Program." And that’s exactly where Born spokesman Tyler Clark pointed us when we asked for backup.
This is what the department’s "Weekly Snapshot of UI Division Activity" for the week of May 22, 2021, showed for the last full week before his claim was made:
Regular Unemployment Insurance weekly claims: 70,112
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims: 35,678
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Weekly Claims: 21,537
Extended Benefits Weekly Claims: 418
So, his current numbers are on target.
For pre-pandemic numbers, we looked back to March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus, a pandemic.
A DWD spreadsheet, "Weekly Claims by County" shows that in the week ending on March 7, 2020, there were 41,015 unemployment claims statewide.
"The point of the tweet was to point out how many people are on state and federal UI benefits now as the economy is opening up and most government-mandated shutdowns and restrictions are being lifted, compared to before the pandemic," Clark said in an email.
He said the figures are significant because "it shows how many people are still on unemployment when we are in the middle of a workforce crisis," noting there were more than 100,000 jobs listed on the Job Center of Wisconsin website as of June 8, 2021.
On June 9, 2021, Republican lawmakers passed legislation that would eliminate the extra $300 per week unemployed people in Wisconsin have received under a federal program for those who lost work during the pandemic.
Proponents say the shift would encourage more people to go re-enter the workforce, but Evers said before the legislation passed that he was likely to veto it:
"I can’t imagine that I’ll be signing it."
Born said ""Before the pandemic, just over 40,000 were on continuing UI claims. Now, there are well over 100,000 on state or federal UI benefits."
Those figures check out, and make clear things are far from back to normal, even if Democrats and Republicans disagree about why unemployment remains high and what to do about it.
We rate the claim True.
Twitter, State Rep. Mark Born, June 2, 2021.
Email, Tyler Clark, Born’s spokesman, June 7, 2021.
Email, Legislative Reference Bureau, June 10, 2021
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Republican lawmakers decline to put an additional $15 million toward unemployment system," June 2, 2021
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "It's a tight labor market. That means employers must find innovative ways to recruit -- and offer higher wages," .
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Wisconsin lawmakers pass bill that would end extra $300 in unemployment benefits. Evers 'can't imagine' signing it." June 9, 2021
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Republican lawmakers introduce legislation ending enhanced unemployment programs in Wisconsin," May 18, 2021
Department of Workforce Development, "Weekly Snapshot of UI Division Activity" for the week of May 22, 2021.
"Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Data - Report, State of Wisconsin, Week of March 7, 2020
Yale Medicine "Our Pandemic Year—A COVID-19 Timeline" March 9, 2021
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