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The U.S. Labor Depoartment reported this morning that more than 141,000 Illinois residents filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week.

That’s down from the more than 200,000 who filed the previous week — but still among the worst weekly jobless figures ever as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the economy.

New jobless figures for individual communities, like Evanston, aren’t yet available.

But Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, says there doesn’t appear to have been much change on the jobs front last week, after the massive wave of retrenchment earlier in the pandemic.

“Not a lot of activity on business opening and closing,” Zalmezak said, adding that it appears most businesses have managed to pay their April rent.

But whether business owners can continue to pay rent on May 1 and June 1, he added, will be important questions going forward.

Roger Sosa, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said lots of local businesses have been applying for government loans, “and we’re starting to see some Evanston businesses get their money.”

He also said he sees some signs that at least a few businesses may be reopening.

The chamber sends out a weekly newsletter about which businesses are open during the pandemic, and he says a record six businesses contacted him after this week’s newsletter went out to ask to be added to the list.

Zalmezak noted that some of the nation’s biggest companies — like Amazon and Walmart — have been adding workers to respond to pandemic-induced changes in shopping patterns — but said the impact on Main Street America — small, retail businesses — has severe and has left them struggling.

Sosa said the next critical step on the legislative front will be for Congress to approve an additional $250 billion aid to businesses  — since the initial Paycheck Protection Program funds have already run out.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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