MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s unemployment rate hit 14.1% in April, a level not seen since the Great Depression, the state Department of Workforce Development reported Thursday.
The state’s rate was just below the national rate of 14.7% for national unemployment. April was the first full month of the state’s “safer at home” order issued by Gov. Tony Evers in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic that forced most nonessential businesses to close and led to skyrocketing unemployment.
While unemployment has soared, so too has criticism from Republicans over the speed in processing claims for benefits. As of Monday, more than 2 million weekly claims have been filed since March 15, but more than 675,000 had yet to be paid. Republican lawmakers have called for Evers to more quickly add staff and expand Workforce Development’s hours to process the claims.
State officials have said they are working hard to process claims in the face of unprecedented demand. There were more than 4.2 million calls to the state’s unemployment division last week alone.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court last week ordered an end to the stay-at-home order, resulting in a patchwork of local ordinances governing when businesses can reopen. Some businesses have moved more quickly than others to resume operations and hire people back.