Unemployment claims increase for the first time since April

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Unemployment increased for the first time since Apri, and it has one Kansan down to his last dollar. 

Dennis Saloga works in the oil industry. He said in late October his job furloughed him until January. He said it’s been 48 days without any financial help.

“I’m frustrated, getting money from them would pay my bills. I can’t pay my bills. I’ve got bill collectors after me, and the state hasn’t done anything to help me,” said Saloga. 

Saloga said after filing for unemployment, his claim was flagged as fraud. He said he has sent in every email requested and called several times to follow up but no response. 

He also said he can’t get a temporary job because he is taking care of his autistic son by himself. 

It’s not a process Saloga said he wanted to go through, but it’s one many others are also experiencing, as the number of Kansans filing unemployment claims rose for the first time since April. 

“With more of the virus spread and it’s impacting businesses across the state, we have seen some increases in unemployment,” said Kansas Labor Economist Emilie Doerksen. “There are also some seasonal factors that can contribute.”

Doerksen said we were at a historic low in unemployment but have hit a historic high. She said because of this, it’s making things hard to predict. 

As for the Sedgwick County area, there was an increase from 6.6% in October to 7.2% in November. 

“This is a sign that companies are, they’ve worked through a lot of their capital that they’ve had, they are still struggling with demand, that means we’re getting more layoffs,” said WSU Economic Development Director Jeremy Hill. 

Hill said the increase in unemployment claims isn’t all bad news as the economy moves forward. 

“We’re having a bit more clarity for the future,” said Hill. “The businesses that last in the market will become more competitive and stronger.”

Hill said because of the vaccine, the economy is becoming stable again, and on a faster path than he expected. 

As the outlook is promising for the economy, the Kansas Department of Labor is still working out the system. 

Right now, for every new claimant, the department checks it individually to ensure it’s not fraud.

“Unfortunately it absolutely drags everything down and slows down the process significantly,” said acting Secretary Ryan Wright. 

It takes 72 hours to get that part processed. The state also faces callback logs and a higher number of new claimants recently. 

As the state continues to develop its checks and balances, Saloga is hoping some financial relief comes soon.

“It’s scary, I wish they could understand the situation I am in,” he said. 

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