CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — About 4,800 West Virginians filed for unemployment aid last week as the state’s economy continues to reel during the coronavirus pandemic, federal officials said Thursday.
The new applications are slightly down from the previous week’s filings and come as Republican Gov. Jim Justice pushes forward with a plan to lift virus restrictions on businesses.
West Virginia’s unemployment rate hit 15% in April and state officials said they have processed more than 164,000 unemployment claims since the pandemic forced widespread business shutdowns.
Nationwide, about 41 million people have applied for jobless benefits since the outbreak began. Many economists predict the country’s unemployment rate will reach around 20% this month.
Justice has allowed most businesses in the state to open back up. This week, he expanded the reopenings to bars, zoos, cabins, lodges and museums. On Saturday, spas and video lottery retailers can resume operations. Casinos can reopen June 5.
Justice’s plan to lift restrictions hinges on the state’s positive test rate staying under 3% for three days, loosening a previous goal of having the number of new cases drop for two weeks. Clay Marsh, a West Virginia University official leading the state’s virus response, has said the state has enough downward trending indicators to ease restrictions.