Initial claims for unemployment in Wisconsin climb nearly 18 percent since government shutdown began


As the government shutdown continues, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has reported that as of Jan. 12, 281 federal furloughed employees have filed an initial claim for unemployment.

“It’s too bad that they’re unable to work due to no fault of their own, and they have to bear the brunt of that issue,” Emily Savard said.

Savard is a program and policy analyst with the DWD.

She’s seen the numbers climb in recent weeks for federal furloughed employees who are now seeking unemployment. Before the shutdown started, the DWD had fewer than 20 federal employees who made initial claims for unemployment. As of last week, that number has climbed to 281, which is a nearly 18 percent increase.

Across the country, 800,000 federal employees are affected by the shutdown. In Wisconsin, there are 29,000. Chris Hunt is one of them.

“As a regular employee I would not be able to do this interview because we have been directed to not give interviews,” Hunt said.

Hunt is a research chemist at the Forest Products Lab. He is a furloughed federal employee and says the only way he is able to share his story is because he is speaking as the Union Steward for the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Like many other furloughed employees, he’s tired of finding things to fill his time he would otherwise be spending at work.

“It’s really frustrating because I’m really invested in what I do. I really believe I am trying to make the world a better place,” Hunt said.

Hunt said he is not at the point where he wants to go through the process of seeking unemployment benefits.

“It’s nonsense to go out and look for work. Who wants to hire me, knowing I’m going to disappear on any given day?” Hunt said.

Being unsure when the government shutdown will end, Hunt, like many, doesn’t want temporary work if it is uncertain when he will be able to return to the job he loves. However, Hunt admitted he had to do something no parent wants to do.

“I got the last kid moved out of the house, helped him buy a car in December. I kind of wiped out my savings. Now, I’m hitting up my other kid for a loan to help me get through,” Hunt said.

Hunt said if push comes to shove and he goes months without a paycheck, he would eventually seek unemployment benefits, too. Although Hunt hopes it never gets to that point, in the meantime, he expressed his concerns about what this could mean for future government employees.

“I worry about our long-term pool of applicants that want to work for the government in the future when this kind of silliness happens,” Hunt said.

If you are a furloughed federal employee affected by the government shutdown and are in need of assistance, you can visit or call the unemployment claims line at 414-435-7069.

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