As 'unprecedented' number of Ohioans seek unemployment, Trump admin asks to embargo data

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Posted at 12:08 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 16:05:27-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a news conference Monday, Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted said that Ohio is facing an unprecedented number of state residents seeking unemployment benefits but could not go into specifics because the Trump administration has asked states not to release those numbers.

According to Husted, Ohioans were having a problem accessing the state’s unemployment website on Monday due to the sheer number of people visiting the site.

“The system was not built for a crisis, it was built to take care of what we could expect on a regular or even robust basis,” Husted said. “What we’re experiencing now is, frankly, unprecedented.”

As of Tuesday, when you Ohio’s unemployment website, it states: “We are experiencing slow processing times due to high claims activity.”

“We ask for people to be patient, know that we understand the frustration that can come with this,” Husted said Monday. “Know that we understand the frustration that can come with this.”

On Friday of last week, the state released updated statistics showing the number of new unemployment claims filed daily for that week. That number totaled 139,468, a 2,796% increase over the previous weeks' claims, which were 4,815.

RELATED: Unemployment claims in Ohio rise dramatically

It’s not known how many people tried to access the website and phone lines to get the ball rolling on the unemployment process due to the U.S. Department of Labor having asked Ohio to no longer release unemployment numbers.

According to CNN, the department sent an email to state governments last week to only “provide information using generalities to describe claims levels (very high, large increase)” until Thursday this week.

A Department of Labor spokesperson told CNN that, “state data is regularly embargoed until the national numbers are published on Thursday morning and states are asked not to share their data until that time. As a leading economic indicator that has the potential to impact policy decisions and financial markets, it is important to ensure the information is communicated in a consistent and fair manner."

At the daily coronavirus briefing in Columbus on Tuesday, Husted expressed his frustrations over the embargo from the federal government.

“We talked about being transparent up here and one of the things that really troubled me yesterday was the fact that we’d received an order from the Department of Labor, not to release the daily unemployment numbers, but we will we will not be able to give them daily, we are going to give them weekly, so every Thursday," he said. "We are allowed to, to share that data, and we’re going to share that data with you every Thursday as soon as we’re allowed to do it, providing weekly, not daily, updates to that.”

Husted said that while he may not agree with the order, he plans to comply by releasing unemployment data weekly on Thursday.

"I was very frustrated with the fact that that that’s the guidance that that we had received," he said. "I believe that we should be allowed to release it on a daily basis, but that’s what they asked for. And look, we have to collaborate, we have to work together. We expect local governments to work with us we have to work with the federal government. I respect their strategy for releasing information — will do it weekly versus daily.”

A representative for Ohio Jobs and Family Services said that while they do intend to publish certain aggregate statistical data, "we are unable to do so at this time pursuant to federal unemployment regulations and guidance."

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