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More than 80,500 apply for benefits in New York

UNEMPLOYMENT

Last week, more than 80,500 people filed initial claims for unemployment in New York, an increase of at least 284% in each of New York’s 10 labor market regions, according to the state Department of Labor.

From Monday, March 16 to Saturday, March 21, the state DOL received more 1,734,100 total calls and more than 2,270,300 web hits.

This is just one piece of what states across the country are experiencing. According to advance figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, 3,283,000 new Americans filed for unemployment in the week ending in March 21. That’s more than 1,000% increase from the previous week. Before this, the highest number of initial claims in a week was in October of 1982 with 695,000 filings.

Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna said there is no concrete data yet of how many workers in the North Country lost their jobs recently, but a 2018 study by consulting firm Tourism Economics shows many workers rely on tourism in the Adirondacks.

“If you look at Essex County, 38% of the employment is tied to tourism,” said McKenna. “That gives you at least one number. In Hamilton County, it’s more like 50.3% is directly tied to tourism jobs. Those are the general numbers we can look at at this point, but no numbers have been compiled yet that I’ve seen or come across.”

At the time of the study, Franklin County had about 13% of its workforce employed in the tourism industry.

A 2018 study from the state DOL said with 11,200 workers in 2018, the leisure and hospitality industry employs the second largest number of workers when compared to any other in the North Country.

“Tourism and a wide variety of outdoor recreation in the North Country are important drivers of employment in this industry,” the study says.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved a $2-trillion stimulus package to help businesses and employees across the country in the wake of the recent economic decline. The House of Representatives is set to vote on it Friday.

“The only bright light we’re seeing in this new ($2 trillion federal) stimulus plans is there seems to be some good programming for unemployment,” McKenna said. “We hope once it’s all finalized and all the details are out, that it won’t be something cumbersome for our businesses to take a look at.”

For now, McKenna encouraged small businesses to apply for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration.

Saranac Lake village Trustee and Chamber of Commerce Director Patrick Murphy said he doesn’t currently know how well local businesses have been fairing since the mass shutdowns, but he should get that data soon. On Thursday, he was putting together a survey for all the businesses that are chamber members.

“I’m hoping to get info on if businesses have shut down, what does that mean for them?” he said. “If they haven’t shut down, how are they doing right now?”

The Franklin County Local Development Corporation sent out a similar survey Thursday afternoon. It asks questions such as “what type of business do you?” “how many people have you had to lay off?” and “would you like information on available funding?”

“There’s a lot of uncertainty for folks. It’s probably going to be a difficult and scary time for them to figure out what is available what type of support is out there. For these employees, who in a week have had their lives turned upside down, it’s probably a scary time for them, and there’s going to be a big need for the community to step in and find ways to support to each other.”

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