25 Investigates: Jobless numbers soar in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The new jobless numbers are in and they are staggering. More than 6 1/2 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the United States last week.

The country is facing the sharpest rise in unemployment in its history.

In Massachusetts, the state has set a record for jobless claims and people are having problems filing their claims.

MORE: 25 Investigates: Mass. residents still facing issues with state’s unemployment system

25 Investigates has been overwhelmed with calls and emails from people who are desperately trying to file for unemployment.

Most of the complaints are from individuals who need to speak to a live person. But they can’t get a call back.

Last week in Massachusetts, more than 180,000 people filed initial claims -- a 22 percent jump from the week prior -- setting a new record for jobless claims in the state.

Restaurant and hotel workers continue to be hit the hardest. Massive amounts of construction and retail employees have also been laid off.

Paul Connell is a pipe-fitter from Marshfield. The job he was working on was shut down.

He said he finally got into the system on Thursday, after 2 1/2 weeks of trying.

“They asked me what city I was born in, and I tell them what city I was born, and they told me it’s the wrong answer. And it just says error. And they, it just continues to do that over and over again,” Connell said.

“Tried to get them to call me back probably 100 times and I haven’t received any calls from them,” he added.

Pam Auvil of Mashpee said she was laid off from her job as a medical assistant.

“My 23-year-old daughter who lives with my husband and I, she’s out on unemployment. She’s a bartender, she works to two different places. She just got our first check last week,” Auvil said.

Auvil said she’s having difficulty filing her own claim, and she can’t get anyone from the state Department of Unemployment Assistance to call her back.

Gov. Charlie Baker said there are 10 times the number of people working unemployment claims in Massachusetts compared to just weeks ago.

“Three weeks ago, they had a 50-person call center that was operating out of the Early Building. Now they have 500 person-plus call center that’s operating remotely to deal with incredible surge in unemployment,” Baker said.

25 Investigates has shared some of your stories with the Department of Unemployment Assistance. But so far, the agency has not been able to tell us how long people should expect to wait to hear from them.

MORE: 25 Investigates: Unemployment claims surge in Mass., some having issues filing for benefits

However, it’s good news for Isaiah Hunt of Dorchester. More than three weeks after the school van driver was laid off, his application for unemployment was accepted.

“I was able to request benefits from the week before plus the week that we just moved provably past, I was able to do that with her. And everything was all set from there,” Hunt said.