Unemployment claims, which have been steadily rising as COVID-19 concerns clamp down on Hawaii’s economy, overloaded the system Wednesday, causing a misleading reported drop in activity.
The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported that a steep rise in weekly unemployment claims hit 4,829 from Sunday to Tuesday. That’s up from 1,292 last week and 798 during the first week of March. The last week of February weekly unemployment claims were just 639.
On Wednesday claims fell below to 2263, but DLIR spokesman William Kunstman said the department thinks that the “drop was due to the flooding of applicants and subsequent slowdown of the site.”
To be sure the state is bracing for tens of thousands of layoffs with the start of the collapse this week of Hawaii tourism.
DLIR Director Scott Murakami said Wednesday’s claim count was about about 700 claims less than Tuesday’s count.
“I do want to express my sincere apologies for the latency that we saw in our system,” Murakami said. “At a certain threshold the system just bogs down. We are trying to optimize the solution. Otherwise it’s first to the trough will feed.”
Murakami said the department is working on making improvements to its phone lines and online system, which they hope will be up and running by this weekend. DLIR already has doubled its front-line workers to 14 today and Murakami said the department plans on bringing in another 9 to bring the count to 23 by Friday.