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Over 522,000 Louisianians have received unemployment benefits since pandemic start

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BATON ROUGE - The U.S. jobless rate dropped to 13.3 percent in May, down from a record high in April. As the state moves into Phase Two of reopening, the Louisiana Workforce Commission says the unemployment numbers are also down in Louisiana, but new claims are still being made.

"In the initial claims, it's been fairly substantial. It's fallen by about 10,000 a week," Assistant Secretary of Unemployment Insurance Robert Wooley said.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission says it's paid $2.5 billion to over 522,000 Louisiana residents who filed for unemployment from March 21 to now. While more businesses are welcoming back employees, the work search requirement has not been reinstated and the LWC says it could be extended.

"Because there isn't a true available job market at this point," Wooley said.

As the LWC continues to navigate record unemployment claims, it's added another role to the mix. The LWC is working to adjudicate claims from employers who say employees are not returning to work. A form on the state's website says employees must file a claim, and in return the employee must explain to the LWC why they're choosing not to return to work. Each case is being looked into.

"That's our new challenge, we have to train adjudicators," Wooley said. "The employee may have a legitimate reason for refusing work. It's not cut and dry. Each side gives a reason and we adjudicate each one."

The LWC call center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Hold times remain significant.

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