Unemployment figures for February were down for the region — but are expected to get significantly higher as the full effects of coronavirus are reported to labor officials.

In Cattaraugus County, the rate was 6.1% in February, down 0.4 points from January, according to the state Department of Labor. The February figures were level with February 2019. Last year saw an average of 5.1% unemployment, with the rate dropping as low as 4.3% in September.

State officials reported, however, that because of delays in reporting, it will not be until the end of this month before the job losses in March due to coronavirus-related business closings are included in the figures.

The number of employed workers decreased slightly, down around 100 to 32,900 in February. However, an additional 600 workers were employed compared to February 2019. The number of unemployed also dropped slightly, down 200 to 2,100 individuals — tied with February 2019.

In Allegany County, unemployment dropped half a percentage point, to 6.2% for February. The rate in February 2019 was 6.7%, while 2019 averaged 5.5%.

The number of employed rose to 19,000, up 500 from the month before. The number of unemployed remained steady at around 1,300.

HOWEVER, with many workers out of a job, officials expect the numbers to skyrocket.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a disaster emergency declaration on March 7 in response to the rise of coronavirus cases in the state. At first, the governor’s order called for half of nonessential businesses to keep half of their workforce at home, either on furlough or telecommuting. Later, the order raised the percentage to 75% before ordering the closing of most nonessential businesses.

The current order is set to expire on April 15, but officials reported they expect it to be extended again.

In addition, several essential businesses, including restaurants and bars, have reported they have or will close due to lack of business until the crisis has passed.

The rise is just now beginning to be recorded by government agencies tasked with handling unemployment data.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday that 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment the week of March 16 — the largest increase in first-week applicants in history. The previous record was under 700,000 in 11982.

The rise in claims has altered how the state Department of Labor is accepting new claims. Those filing for new claims should do so on certain days of the week based on the first letter of the claimant’s last name:

  • A — F file on Monday
  • G — N file on Tuesday
  • O — Z file on Wednesday

Those who missed their day may file Thursday through Saturday, and claims will be backdated to the date the claimant became unemployed.

DOL officials also announced they have extended telephone filing hours:

  • Monday through Thursday, 8 am to 7:30 pm.
  • Friday, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

To make a claim, call (888) 209-8124 or go online to https://labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm.

THE FIGURES locally and nationally are expected to continue to rise as more states issue stay-home orders and close nonessential businesses to limit the speed and intensity of the spread of the virus.

The Federal Reserve indicated Monday that nationwide job losses could reach 47 million, raising the unemployment rate to 32% — about seven percentage points higher than the previous peak during the Great Depression.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)