Avalanche of new unemployment claims in Hawaii nearly crashes online system

Published: Mar. 18, 2020 at 5:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The number of people trying to file unemployment claims brought the state’s online system almost to a halt Wednesday.

The sharp spike is the result of the hit to the tourism industry and businesses closures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, 3,000 new claims were filed.

On Monday, there were almost 1,500. The entire week prior had less than 1,300.

Tuesday's new unemployment claims
Tuesday's new unemployment claims(Hawaii Dept. of Labor & Industrial Relations)

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is struggling to keep up.

Those who cannot file online at uiclaims.hawaii.gov are asked to call the office at (808) 586-8970 and the workers answering those calls have been flooded.

[MORE: Need to file an unemployment claim? Here’s how to do it]

To accommodate, Director Scott Murakami says they’re temporarily shifting workers from other divisions to help with claims and are even looking for former workers.

“Contacting people that used to work in the unemployment insurance division and asking them to come back and seeing if we can hire them as critical employees. Bring them on board and have them help us with filing all these claims,” Murakami said.

Murakami added they expect the numbers to shoot up even more in the next few weeks and want to be prepared for that happening.

State's unemployment office flooded with new claims
State's unemployment office flooded with new claims(NONE)

The state’s technology division had to reset the online system Wednesday to get it moving again.

One month ago, Hawaii’s unemployment rate was at 2.7%. During the recession in 2009, it was 7.8%.

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