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Are Tennesseans getting back to work? New report shows promise

(WVLT)
Published: May. 5, 2020 at 3:01 PM EDT
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Continued unemployment claims in Tennessee decreased to 321,521 for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new numbers released by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Tennessee saw a record number of continued claims the week leading up to April 25. According to state officials, the number of continued claims hit 324,543, a historic high for Tennessee. The number represents how many Tennesseans continue to draw unemployment benefits.

The decrease indicates that some Tennesseans are now able to get back to work.

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Spokesperson Chris Cannon said continued claims is the important number to watch as we wait for the economy to rebound.

"That’s the number of people making their claim to move on to the next week, that’s the number we need to look at to see if folks are going back to work and if fewer people are collecting unemployment benefits," Cannon told

.

"We haven’t seen it decline yet, but that new number will come out Thursday and we will be closely looking at that to see if that number of continued claims decreases as well," Cannon said.

Two weekends ago vendors installed new servers to speed up the unemployment filing process. Cannon said the installation of that equipment significantly improved the system.

"We’ve seen really good responses to the system ever since. We haven’t seen any responsiveness or system capacity issues since then, so that really did make the difference we were hoping it was going to make. Not only for the customers who need the system to apply for unemployment or make their weekly certifications but also on the back end it’s really speeding up the process for our agents and the call centers. You have to keep in mind it’s one system so if it’s slow for you on the front end it’s slow for us on the back end. So now we’re able to process claims faster and answer claims faster because of the new system."

The state's unemployment questionnaire is now formatted to include self-employed Tennesseans filing for unemployment.

"We have since gone in and rebuilt that system and have updated the questionnaire to make it more user friendly for the self-employed folks so they can better navigate that application process," Cannon said.

The number of new claims filed peaked in Tennessee three weeks ago and has steadily declined since.

Latest statewide numbers:

Week Week Ending Date New Claims Filed Continued Claims

10 March 14, 2020 2,702 16.342

11 March 21, 2020 39,096 16,098

12 March 28, 2020 94,492 34,570

13 April 4, 2020 116,141 116,141

14 April 11, 2020 74,772 199,910

15 April 18, 2020 68,968 267,053

16 April 25, 2020 43,792 324,543

17 May 2, 2020 37,319 321,571

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