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“Amar from the Bronx” called into the Brian Lehrer Show, a radio program that covers local and national issues, on Monday during the segment “Your Unemployment Questions Answered.” He hasn’t worked as a driver for Lyft since he developed COVID-19 symptoms and was trying to understand if he was eligible for unemployment.

Amar has plenty of company, with record numbers of unemployment claims being made in the last two weeks across the Bronx and the nation.  The Bronx accounted for 23,721 initial unemployment claims last week, according to a report released Thursday by the New York State Department of Labor. That’s one fewer claim than the week before.

That number may have been much higher, if not for issues New Yorkers have had filing their claims with the Department of Labor.

The increase in unemployment claims in the Bronx for the week ending April 4 represents a 2224% increase from a year ago, when the number of claims filed was 1,022 for the same week.  Claims filed by Bronx workers put the Bronx in the middle of the five boroughs in new unemployment claims. Queens is by far the hardest hit borough with a nearly 4000% increase from last year followed by Brooklyn.

New York City outpaced the state in percentage of new claims, but not by much.

The report lists accommodation/food service, retail and construction as the industries that have seen the largest change from last year.

New York State residents have reported extensive wait times filing by phone, if they are able to get through at all. The department’s website didn’t provide a steady alternative as it buckled under the pressure of the influx of visitors. The department does not allow for claims to be filed by mail.

On Thursday evening, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a partnership with Google to replace the malfunctioning system, as well as provide a more streamlined verification process.


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