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Job Service ND centers adjust to unemployment claim influx

(KFYR)
Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 5:18 PM CDT
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Workforce centers in North Dakota have made some major adjustments just to keep up with the influx of unemployment claim phone calls.

Some have been repurposed into call centers. In Williston, three full-time staff are taking state unemployment claim center calls, while four other employees are taking local office calls.

Job Service statistics show just last week, 800 people claimed unemployment in Williams County, 186 in McKenzie, and 14 in Divide. April’s claims in those three counties have already surpassed last month’s numbers.

Paula Hickel, Job Service ND Williston Workforce Center manager, said, “We see everybody from food services to gas and oil filing unemployment. How many people have called and said I’ve never had to file unemployment in my life, yep that’s most of these folks. So, we have done in North Dakota three years' worth of claims in the last month.”

Hickel says the oil and gas industry is hurting right now, and regular claimants like former chemical field technician Emmett Marshall of Williston are now receiving an extra $600 a week from the CARES Act.

“Without it, I would be in a much worse situation than I’m at right now,” stated Marshall, “I couldn’t pay my bills, I could be out on the streets, could lose a vehicle, couldn’t make the payments.”

Marshall said he’s applied for several positions that were similar to his, but “nobody is hiring at this time. They’re all laying off, and I’m getting nice answers, well in the near future if we hire again we’ll contact you. So I haven’t had any luck finding anything that fits within my skill-set.”

Marshall said he is thinking about changing his career because his specific position might not be available for another year.

Hickel said they aren’t used to helping with the detailed unemployment claims that usually go to the state claim center. Marshall said he’s thankful for Job Service’s help, because he, like many others, have never had to deal with unemployment before.