HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, including almost 379,000 Pennsylvanians.

After Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life essential businesses to close, the volume of people needing unemployment checks to survive skyrocketed. In just 11 days, there have been almost 650,000 unemployment claims filed in the commonwealth.

“Given what’s happened, not a complete surprise. I would think probably most of those hit out of the travel, hospitality industries, etc. I think a lot of them now are rippling throughout other industries as well,” said Gene Barr, president, and CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry.

Many business owners can’t afford to pay their employees or stay afloat at all.
There have been 271,067 claims this week so far; last week, 378,900.

“The biggest week of the great recession was January 2010 where we had 80,000 claims during that week,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the PA AFL-CIO.

Despite the federal government telling states not to release any data until Friday, Bloomingdale says it’s important to see.

“The stock market will respond to real information, false information, any information, so better to have real numbers so folks can understand and make intelligent decisions,” Bloomingdale said.

Barr thinks many people can get back to work.

“By having them work safely. I’ve talked to a lot of my members. They can come back in. They know how to use social distancing,” he said. “The governor has said, for example, we need to use common sense about this and I completely agree and our folks are ready, willing and able to do that.”

“There’s still a lot to do both at the state and federal level and we’re looking forward to working with the governor and our state legislature to make sure that Pennsylvania citizens can make it through this,” Bloomingdale said.

Starting Friday, the Department of Labor and Industry will post daily claims numbers at 11 am.

Online FAQs for employees and employers provide answers to many COVID-19 UC questions. For answers to questions not contained in the FAQs, email uchelp@pa.gov.

Pennsylvania UC claim numbers are not official until the U.S. Department of Labor releases them every Thursday at 8:30 a.m.