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Jobless Claims Crash State's Unemployment Network

The New York State Department of Labor's technology collapsed Tuesday under the weight of the state's jobless claims.

More than 10,000 calls and claims per hour poured into the unemployment insurance telephone claims center and the online claim site, overwhelming the system. Both shut down Tuesday morning. By the afternoon, the Department of Labor announced that it had fixed the automated phone system, as well as the Web site, so residents could once again report their claims.

Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith said that New York's online unemployment claims system and the Department of Labor telephone number "experienced an unexpected but temporary shut down due to high volume of calls."

New York experienced the extraordinary rise in claims Tuesday morning. The problems occurred just weeks after New York reported that its private-sector job count fell by 23,500 from November to 7,219,700 in December (seasonally adjusted). That represented the largest month-to-month drop since October 2001, when the state's economy suffered a slowdown exacerbated by terrorist attacks. More than 1 million people were out of work.

In November 2008, the entire state recorded a 6.1% unemployment rate, which includes New York City, with a 6.3% unemployment rate and upstate with a 5.9% unemployment rate. The country's unemployment rate was at 6.7% in November.

Those seeking unemployment benefits are required to report any earnings they may have received each week. They can do so by phone or through the Web site. Claimants have until Sunday to file claims for the current week, the Department of Labor said.