Subscribe to E-Update here.  
Labor Report

PA Labor Department: Contractors, Gig Workers, Self-Employed Will Soon Be Able to Apply for Benefits

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is strongly encouraging displaced workers who are considered self-employed or independent contractors to immediately start gathering the documents they will need to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

The department will begin accepting applications online within the next few days and will announce when the PUA website is ready to accept applications.

Individuals who should file for PUA include self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, people without sufficient work history to qualify for regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), and people who have exhausted regular UC or extended benefits.

In general, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, may not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular UC of $572, and may not be less than the state’s average weekly benefit amount of $195. Payments will be retroactive to either January 27, 2020, or the first week you were unable to work due to COVID-19, whichever date is more recent. Benefits will end on December 31, 2020.

Applicants should start gathering the information they will need to apply, including copies of recent paycheck stubs, bank receipts showing deposits, IRS Form 1099 statements, billing notices you provided to your customers, recent advertisements for your business or services, statements from recent customers, current business licenses, ledgers, contracts, invoices, and/or building leases.

Acceptable documentation of wages includes tax returns, paycheck stubs, bank receipts, ledgers, contracts, invoices and/or billing statements.

Individuals who are eligible for PUA will also be eligible for an additional $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. The additional payments will be effective for the week ending April 4, 2020, to the week ending July 25, 2020. Payments for past weeks will be backdated and paid in one lump sum. Payments will be made automatically. Claimants don’t need to do anything additional to receive the extra $600 per week.

General information for workers and businesses is available by visiting the department’s COVID-19 Guidance & Resources page.

Tartaglione’s COVID-19 Essential Worker Protections Enacted by Wolf Administration

Senator Tartaglione applauded Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachael Levine and Governor Tom Wolf for issuing an executive order that bolsters COVID-19 protections for employees of businesses that are authorized to continue in-person operations during the statewide disaster emergency.

Among many new mandates, the order establishes requirements for social distancing, for the provision and use of facemasks in the workplace, for the reduction of large gatherings, for limited visitor access to workplaces, and for sufficient staffing levels. In addition, all components of the order must be communicated to employees in their primary language, thereby ensuring that all workers can understand the new requirements.

All of these elements and many others had previously been proposed by Senator Tartaglione in two Senate bills: the COVID-19 Food Worker Safety Act (SB 1101) and the COVID-19 Grocery Store Worker Safety Act (SB 1102). The Senate’s Rules & Executive Nominations Committee refused to adopt the language from Senator Tartaglione’s bills as part of an omnibus amendment to a Republican-sponsored bill focused on the reopening of non-essential businesses in the Commonwealth amid the pandemic.

In a party-line vote, the Senate adopted the Republican bill without Senator Tartaglione’s comprehensive worker protections. Secretary Levine and Governor Wolf then implemented the worker protections through the executive order.

“It is vital that we require business to practice these common-sense and scientifically proven safety protocols for the protection of workers and the public at-large. And that is what this order does,” said Senator Tartaglione, who is Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Labor & Industry Committee. “Many of the measures included in this order were part of legislation that I proposed. I applaud this swift action by Secretary Levine and Governor Wolf to implement these much-needed protocols.”

U.S. Unemployment Rate Continues to Climb, Erasing Gains of Post-Recession Recovery

There were more than 5.2 million initial unemployment claims filed across the United States for the week ending April 11, raising the four-week national total to more than 22 million initial claims, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor this week.

As a result, the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate reached 8.2%, which is the highest rate recorded in the history of the seasonally adjusted rate. The previous high was 7.0% in May 1975.

“The (U.S.) Department of Labor has issued all the essential guidance the States need to implement the historic unemployment benefits expansion under the CARES Act, and 29 States are now paying the $600 weekly boost in unemployment benefits under the Act,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a news release. “The remaining States will begin providing the benefit as they update their systems.”

Politico reported that the employment downturn has exceeded the 18-month-long Great Recession of 2007-2009 and is considered the nation’s worst since the Great Depression.

“Since the end of the Great Recession, the labor market added 21.5 million jobs,” Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao reportedly told Politico. “In four weeks, all of the job gains from the decade-long recovery following the Great Recession have been erased.”

Most jobless claims have been filed by low-wage workers, “but it’s also starting to include middle and professional classes,” Politico reported. The hardest hit sectors include retail and service industries, healthcare, manufacturing, and construction.

Based on the Department of Labor’s raw data, analysts concluded that about 60% of Americans who filed new unemployment claims within the previous month have begun to collect benefits.

California Mandates Full Paid Sick Leave Benefits for Food Industry Workers

California Governor Gavin Newsom, in collaboration with the state’s grocers and organized labor, has issued an executive order that requires companies in the food supply chain with 500 or more employees to provide supplemental paid sick leave to workers who test positive for COVID-19 and those who must self-quarantine.

“The California Grocers Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers union support the new sick leave benefits, which the governor’s office said fills a gap left by a federal law that provides paid leave benefits to workers at smaller businesses,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The order applies to grocery stores, restaurants, fast-food chains, food processing and packaging plants, agriculture and delivery services.

Union leaders stated that the supplemental coverage will allow employees to feel more comfortable about speaking out if they start to develop symptoms. It will help to prevent the virus from spreading to co-workers and store patrons.

This week, Senator Tartaglione co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senator Larry Farnese to address the gaps in federally mandated paid sick leave coverage for all Pennsylvania employees.

SB 1109, the Public Health Emergency Leave Act, would grant emergency paid sick leave to all employees not covered by the federal law, would extend the paid sick leave period to 14 days to match the two-week standard quarantine period for COVID-19, would extend paid sick leave to those who have become unemployed due to the emergency, would ensure full pay to workers who take leave to care for ailing family members or children whose schools have closed, and would require employers to reinstate employees who return from leave.

SB 1109 has been referred to the Senate Labor & Industry Committee.

How to Apply for Traditional Unemployment Benefits on the PA Department of Labor Website

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has provided new guidance on how displaced workers may apply for Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits.

Individuals who have already been approved for UC benefits should NOT call to request supplementary CARES benefits. The department will automatically update your benefits. Your call will make it difficult for those who have pending claims to reach an agent.

Those who have been approved may qualify to receive 26 weeks of traditional UC benefits, an additional $600 per week until July 31, 2020 (retroactive to April 5 or the date of separation, whichever is more recent), and an additional 13 weeks of UC benefits if you remain unemployed after 26 weeks.

Those who have NOT already made a claim should first check their eligibility for traditional UC or PUA benefits by visiting the “Am I Eligible” page at Those who may be eligible for traditional UC benefits may apply by visiting the “File an Initial Claim” page.

Those who are not traditionally eligible for UC benefits, such as self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers, should NOT apply through the traditional UC system. There will be a SEPARATE application process for PUA. The department will post instructions at within the next few days.

Self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers may be eligible for 26 weeks of PUA benefits, an additional $600 per week until July 31, 2020 (retroactive to April 5 or the date of separation, whichever is more recent), and an additional 13 weeks of benefits if you remain unemployed after 26 weeks.

Those who have exhausted their 26 weeks of traditional UC benefits will be able to apply for an additional 13 weeks when the U.S. Department of Labor provides guidance on the process to Pennsylvania. Instructions will be posted when they become available.

March 2020 PA Jobs Update

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.0% in March 2020, up from 4.7% in February 2020, its highest level since May 2014 and largest month-to-month increase on record. Over the month, unemployment rolls increased by more than 85,000 individuals, with total unemployment rising to 394,247. This and the other changes to data provided in this update reflect some of the early effects of the coronavirus (please see the **footnote on the following page). State unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 394,247
  • Change Over Month –   UP   85,219
  • Change Over Year –   UP   129,151
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   DOWN   80,010
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP   49,811
  • Rate Change Over Month –   UP   1.3%
  • Rate Change Over Year –   UP   1.9%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   DOWN   1.3%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP   0.6%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, increased significantly over the month (rate = unemployment / labor force). The labor force is the number of employed individuals combined with the number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Labor force growth can be a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. In March 2020, PA’s labor force decreased by 19,225 individuals (the largest month-to-month decrease on record), a combination of total employment* down by 104,444 and unemployment up by 85,219 as noted above.

Over Governor Wolf’s first term, the state’s labor force grew by 55,994 (employment +136,004 – unemployment -80,010). With the decrease in March 2020, growth in the state’s labor force over both of Governor Wolf’s terms thus far lowered to 140,042 (employment +90,231 – unemployment +49,811) over both terms thus far. State labor force statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Labor Force – 6,539,194
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   19,225
  • Change Over Year –   UP    89,763
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   UP    55,994
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP   140,042

PA non-farm* job rolls fell by 40,400 in March 2020, the largest month-to-month decline since January 1996. With the decrease, year-over-year non-farm job growth in March 2020 stands at 14,500. Over Governor Wolf’s first term (Jan. 2015 – Jan. 2019), a total of 238,700 new non-farm jobs were added. The decline in March 2020 lowered total growth through Governor Wolf’s second term thus far to 16,600, for total growth over both terms of 255,300. State non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Non-Farm Employment – 6,069,200
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   40,400
  • Change Over Year –   UP   14,500
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   UP   238,700
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP    255,300

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.

**Please note that the March survey reference periods for both the establishment and household surveys predated many coronavirus-related business and school closures in the second half of the month. Weekly initial jobless claims reports have indicated over 1.4 million new filings for unemployment insurance since March 15 (more than half of which occurred in the latter half of March 2020).