News Brief

by Leslie Turk

Post-hurricane unemployment claims on the rise.

Just as the national wave of unemployment resulting from hurricanes Katrina and Rita appeared to be cresting, Hurricane Wilma hit Florida, which will likely result in more jobless claims. As of last week, the total of those left unemployed from the storms nationwide had reached 478,000 ' about 300,000 in Louisiana alone. Unemployment insurance and disaster unemployment assistance benefits paid out have topped $250 million, the Louisiana Department of Labor announced Oct. 21.

For the month of September in the Lafayette MSA, which includes Lafayette and St. Martin parishes, the number of claims filed has increased 355 percent over September 2004 (figures in the chart represent new and continuing claims). The dollar value has already jumped 368 percent, rising from $802,120 in September 2004 to $3.75 million this year, according to the DOL. From September 2003 to September 2004, the number of claims and money paid out had fallen 25 percent.

Thus far in October, 1,646 new claims have been filed in the Lafayette MSA.

The state DOL's first official unemployment rate revealing post-Katrina effects in the state (the survey was done two weeks before Rita) was scheduled for release after press time Tuesday. "Potentially, the rate could double," Dino DeMarte, DOL's research and statistics director told Baton Rouge's online news service Daily Report. "That's just my gut feeling." The state's jobless rate before Katrina was 6 percent; the Lafayette MSA's was a meager 4.7 percent.