The number of Louisiana residents making new claims for unemployment benefits increased by almost 10,000 last week, the federal government reported last week.

The U.S. Department of Labor says 31,907 advance claims were made in the state during the week ending July 4, compared to 21,976 the prior week. Another 9,089 people applied for pandemic unemployment assistance, which is for freelancers, gig workers and others not usually eligible for unemployment; that total was down by 1,118.

By comparison, state residents made close to 2,000 new claims during a typical week before the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 306,089 people in the state receiving benefits the week ending June 27, state and federal numbers show.

Nationally, about 1.3 million workers filed new claims for unemployment benefits, down from the heights of March and April but still high compared to past recessions.

As of July 7, Louisiana’s unemployment trust fund contained $471.6 million, compared to more than $1 billion before the beginning of the pandemic and the business restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Employers pay taxes to sustain the fund. When it falls below $750 million, the amount of employee wages that are taxed increases, effectively raising taxes on employers, and weekly benefits for recipients are reduced.

However, those changes don’t kick in automatically. When the Revenue Estimating Conference meets in the fall, adjustments to benefits and the wage base could be made based on the trust fund balance.

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