The Montana Department of Labor and Industry reported on Thursday that the number of Montanans applying for unemployment insurance is completely unprecedented.

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry, Brenda Nordlund, provided the numbers as of the end of business on Thursday, March 26.

“The number of claims filed since this emergency began are truly unprecedented,” said Nordlund. “I have this week’s numbers on initial and reactivated claims and we saw another 9,200 claims filed this week, and we have over 18,000 weekly pay requests come in, but in a typical week that number is more like 7,000. I expect that number to go higher for our new claims and our reactivations to go higher again once the federal stimulus package is enacted and implemented.”

Nordlund described which workers are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance.

“Those who have lost their jobs in the unemployment insurance system,” she said. “We’re trying to provide relief to Montana workers during times of hardship,” she said. “That’s the essence of the mission of the unemployment compensation program and for Montanans who are able to access this relief, we help maintain the stability of the local economy.”

Nordlund said the aid being offered to those who have lost their jobs in the federal stimulus bill just passed by the U.S. Senate will be administered locally by the State of Montana.

“The unemployment compensation program is a state and federal partnership, so we will be administering the federal changes that are coming down the pike,” she said. “We’re watching the legislation closely. I and all my counterparts are analyzing what it’s going to take to put the various components of the legislation into our processes and our IT systems. We’re poised and we want to be as nimble as we can, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The pandemic unemployment assistance deals with self-employed independent contractors both with limited work history and others.”

Nordlund confirmed that the individual payments of $1,200 to adults and $500 to children are completely separate from the unemployment compensation program.