Mississippi sees sharp rise in unemployment during pandemic

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi, like other states, continues to see a steep rise in the number of people seeking temporary unemployment benefits as more businesses close or furlough workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 46,000 applications for jobless benefits were submitted in Mississippi during the week that ended April 4, the U.S. Employment and Training Administration said Thursday. That is a 45% increase from the previous week and a 4,800% increase from the same week in 2019.

“One in ten US workers lost their jobs these last few weeks,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday on Twitter. “Mississippi is facing this same crisis — and it is a true crisis for working people.”

The Nissan factory near Canton, Mississippi, announced this week that it is furloughing 4,000 hourly employees through April 27. Many restaurants in the state remain open for carryout or delivery service, and some are operating with fewer employees. Barber shops, salons and many retail stores are closed.

The state Health Department said Thursday that Mississippi’s overall coronavirus caseload grew to at least 2,260 infections and 76 deaths as of Wednesday evening. That is an increase of 257 cases and nine deaths from the previous day. The outbreak has spread to at least 44 long-term care facilities.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

Reeves issued a statewide stay-at-home order that took effect Friday and remains in place until the morning of April 20. The governor has asked people to work from home if possible, and he has banned gatherings of 10 or more people.

Reeves also has said repeatedly that he does not believe government can force churches to close, but he is asking people to worship online or at home.

Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said Thursday that his city tightened rules for churches Tuesday because a majority of COVID-19 cases there “were caused because people went to church or a church gathering” such as weddings or funerals.

“We saw a large number of churches, even after March 20, still holding services of 50 or 60 people,” Simmons said during a conference call for mayors in cities along the Mississippi River.

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