CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — About 4,500 West Virginians filed for unemployment aid last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses in the state, according to federal statistics released Thursday.
The filings are slightly down from the previous week though they remain historically high. State officials said they have received 250,000 unemployment claims in the last 10 weeks. West Virginia’s unemployment rate hit 15% in April, the last recorded month.
Nationwide, nearly 1.9 million people filed for jobless benefits last week. Thursday’s latest weekly number from the U.S. Department of Labor is still more than double the record high that prevailed before the viral outbreak.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice has allowed most businesses to reopen under his phased plan to lift virus restrictions. On Friday, casinos and movie theaters can resume operations. Justice on Thursday also announced that fairs and festivals can begin again on July 1, under strict safety guidelines that his office will release later this week.
The governor’s strategy 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. At least 79 people in West Virginia have died from the virus and around 2,100 have tested positive, according to state health officials.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.