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Labor Report

As Unemployment Claims Increase, Administration Suspends Waiting Period, Reporting Requirements

On Thursday, March 19, the U.S. Department of Labor released weekly unemployment insurance claims data for the week ending March 14.

According to the release, there were 281,000 initial claims filed nationwide for the week, an increase of 70,000 over the previous week’s total. This was the highest level for initial claims since Sept. 2, 2017, when there were 299,000 initial claims. reported that the federal agency attributed the increase to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, as workers in non-essential services and industries experience job losses and work reductions.

“Layoffs were concentrated in service related industries, as well as in transportation and warehousing,” the news agency reported.

“But reports from unemployment offices around the country indicated the real explosion in claims began this past weekend (March 14-15) and continued unabated this week.”

On March 20, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor released its monthly employment situation report for February 2020. The statewide unemployment rate remained unchanged month-to-month at 4.7%, while the national rate declined by one-tenth of a point to 3.5%. Year-over-year, the Pennsylvania rate increased by six-tenths of a point while the national rate declined by three-tenths of a point.

The PA Department of Labor recommends that workers seeking to file unemployment claims should file online for faster processing. In response to the pandemic, the Wolf administration has temporarily suspended the one-week waiting week for unemployment claims and the work search and work registration requirements.

Therefore, workers can be paid retroactively for their first week of lost work, upon subsequent approval of their applications.

Governor Orders Closure, Enforcement of Non-Life-Sustaining Businesses

Gov. Wolf

Governor Wolf has ordered the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses throughout Pennsylvania to slow the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus.

The new guidance took effect at 8 p.m. on March 19 and will be enforced starting on March 21. Businesses covered by the order must close their physical locations. To assist businesses, the administration has compiled a comprehensive list of industry groups with categorization as life-sustaining or non-life-sustaining.

“To protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions,” Governor Wolf said. “This virus is an invisible danger that could be present everywhere. We need to act with the strength we use against any other severe threat. And, we need to act now before the illness spreads more widely.”

Previously, the governor had encouraged non-life-sustaining businesses to close and had required restaurants and bars were required to close their dine-in facilities.
Under the new order, food establishments may continue to offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage services. Grocery stores, gas stations, medical facilities, nursing facilities, banks, and most social assistance agencies may remain upon.

Child daycare facilities are not considered life-sustaining, nor are construction industries. Some manufacturing industries may continue to operate, but many have been ordered to close.

The governor issued the order in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Services Code. The governor is empowered to control ingress and egress to the disaster area, the movement of persons, and the occupancy of premises within the area, which includes the entire Commonwealth.

UFCW Opens Web Hiring Hall to Assist Displaced Supermarket, Pharmacy Workers

Due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776 Keystone State has established an online “hiring hall” to help union members in the Philadelphia area and their families and friends who have been displaced and are looking for work.

UFCW 1776KS represents employees of Acme, Shop Rite, and Fresh Grocer supermarkets, as well as Rite Aid pharmacies.

Job seekers may contact the union through a web-based form. Visitors are asked to provide their name, most recent place of employment, and contact information. They are asked to confirm that their current loss of employment has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Union representatives will contact those who complete the online form.

“With the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus, UFCW 1776KS is working around-the-clock to ensure its members are supported and well represented,” the union stated.

“Local 1776KS recognizes the countless hours of hard work members have devoted in service to their communities. … While employment is not guaranteed, representatives at UFCW 1776KS will do their best to help you find work.”

For information, contact the union via

Senator Tartaglione issued a statement to recognize the vital work being performed by supermarket and pharmacy employees during the public health emergency.

“I am very proud of the work that you are doing to help our communities in our time of greatest need,” the senator said. “You have a difficult job, but a crucial one, and we appreciate you very much.”

NLRB Suspends All Union Representation Elections, Including Mail-In Balloting

National Labor Relations Board The National Labor Relations Board has suspended all union representation elections until and including April 3 due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.

Board members voted on March 19 to approve the two-week suspension, which includes mail-in ballot elections.

“The Board deems this action necessary to ensure the health and safety of our employees, as well as those members of the public who are involved in the election process,” the NLRB stated. “Moreover, given the closure of several Regional Offices and limited operations and significant telework at others, the Board does not believe that it is possible to effectively conduct elections at this time.”

The NLRB has implemented temporary closures of numerous regional offices due to the public health threat. Locations in San Francisco, Manhattan, and Denver are each closed presently. Manhattan and Denver are scheduled to reopen on March 23. Offices in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and New Orleans were previously closed but have been reopened.

State Unemployment Rate Ranking

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; National Rate for January 2020: 3.6%)



Jan. 2020 % Rate

Month Diff.

Year Diff.

1 North Dakota 2.3 (0.1) -
T-2 South Carolina 2.4 - (1.0)
T-2 Vermont 2.4 - -
T-4 Colorado 2.5 - (0.7)
T-4 Utah 2.5 0.1 (0.4)
6 New Hampshire 2.6 - 0.1
T-7 Alabama 2.7 - (0.9)
T-7 Hawaii 2.7 - (0.1)
T-7 Virginia 2.7 - (0.3)
T-10 Florida 2.8 (0.1) (0.6)
T-10 Idaho 2.8 (0.1) (0.1)
T-10 Iowa 2.8 - 0.1
T-10 Massachusetts 2.8 - (0.3)
14 Nebraska 2.9 (0.1) (0.1)
T-15 Georgia 3.1 - (0.7)
T-15 Indiana 3.1 (0.1) (0.5)
T-15 Kansas 3.1 - (0.2)
T-15 Maine 3.1 0.1 (0.1)
19 Minnesota 3.2 (0.1) -
T-20 Maryland 3.3 (0.1) (0.5)
T-20 Oklahoma 3.3 (0.1) -
T-20 Oregon 3.3 (0.1) (0.9)
T-20 Tennessee 3.3 - (0.1)
T-24 Rhode Island 3.4 (0.1) (0.3)
T-24 South Dakota 3.4 - 0.3
T-26 Arkansas 3.5 - (0.1)
T-26 Illinois 3.5 (0.2) (0.9)
T-26 Missouri 3.5 0.1 0.3
T-26 Montana 3.5 - -
T-26 Texas 3.5 - (0.2)
T-26 Wisconsin 3.5 - 0.4
T-32 Nevada 3.6 (0.1) (0.6)
T-32 North Carolina 3.6 - (0.4)
T-34 Connecticut 3.7 (0.1) (0.1)
T-34 Wyoming 3.7 - 0.2
T-36 Michigan 3.8 (0.1) (0.4)
T-36 New Jersey 3.8 0.1 0.1
T-36 New York 3.8 (0.1) (0.2)
T-39 California 3.9 - (0.4)
T-39 Washington 3.9 (0.1) (0.6)
41 Delaware 4.0 - 0.5
42 Ohio 4.1 - (0.2)
43 Kentucky 4.3 - 0.1
44 Arizona 4.5 - (0.4)
45 Pennsylvania 4.7 0.1 0.6
46 New Mexico 4.8 - (0.2)
47 West Virginia 5.0 (0.1) 0.1
48 Louisiana 5.3 0.1 0.6
49 Mississippi 5.5 (0.1) 0.4
50 Alaska 6.0 (0.1) (0.1)