Almost 34,000 Government Workers Apply for Unemployment

First week of shutdown sends federal workers to unemployment offices

Unemployment line / AP
October 9, 2013

Nearly 34,000 federal workers applied for unemployment benefits in the first week of the shutdown, according to government agencies.

A total of 16,078 furloughed workers in Maryland have applied for unemployment as of Sunday night, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The agency only receives 3,000 claims from federal workers all year on average.

Washington, D.C., has also seen a "surge" in claims, as 9,000 federal government employees applied for benefits in the shutdown’s first three days. The total surpassed 10,000 by Monday.

Unemployment claims in northern Virginia jumped by 3,500, according to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) office in Alexandria, which serves Arlington, Fairfax, and Falls Church.

Joyce Fogg, a spokesperson for the Alexandria office, told the Washington Free Beacon that 959 federal workers were among those who applied between Oct. 1 and Oct. 7. The 3,500-increase in claims also likely represents government contractors who have been affected by the shutdown, she said.

Checks will start going out on Oct. 14, at a maximum of $378 a week.

6,559 federal workers in Pennsylvania applied for unemployment between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, according to the state’s Department of Labor.

Even West Virginia is seeing an effect, with 268 federal workers filing claims as of Monday. The state warns, "due to the high volume of federal unemployment claims being taken, there may be a delay in the entry of your new claim."

33,864 federal employees in all sought unemployment during the first week the government was closed.

If Congress passes legislation to pay furloughed workers retroactively, those who receive unemployment benefits will be required to pay them back. The House unanimously passed a bill on Saturday to ensure that federal employees will receive back pay, though the Senate has yet to vote on the measure.

Most of the states have a one-week waiting period before benefits can be approved, and in Virginia a person must be unemployed for at least two weeks before being considered.

Each state and the District of Columbia display shutdown disclaimers on their websites, advertising the availability of unemployment to furloughed workers.

Some 800,000 "nonessential" federal employees have been out of work since the government shut down at midnight on Oct. 1.

Government workers have enjoyed a significantly lower unemployment rate than the rest of the nation in recent years, with a 4.6 percent rate as of August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.