By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
Roughly 76,000 unemployed Louisianans are in limbo after the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s HiRE website was taken offline on Wednesday in response to an attempted malware attack.
The state’s labor exchanges and unemployment claims systems were shut down Wednesday by Geographic Solutions, a state contractor, after the company discovered an attempted malware attack that also impacted as many as 40 other states and the District of Columbia.
GSI told state officials there was no data breach from the HiRE website, which is used for unemployment claims, job searches and other functions.
“The outage impacts the nearly 11,000 people currently filing continued claims for unemployment in Louisiana. GSI has prioritized Louisiana for restoring the HiRE website, and we remain fully committed to working with them to bring our systems back online as soon as possible,” according to a Louisiana Workforce Commission statement.
State officials allege the outage will not prevent otherwise eligible claimants from receiving unemployment benefits, though payments will be delayed.
“For HiRE users who filed weekly certifications prior to the system outage but have not yet received payment, LWC will prioritize ensuring payments are issued promptly once the website is back online,” the statement read. “LWC will issue further instructions to users who have not yet filed a weekly certification, once access to the HiRE site has been restored to ensure all eligible users have an opportunity to file claims.”
LWC said on Wednesday officials expect the system to be restored “within the next 72 hours.”
“Our call centers have reopened to answer questions or address concerns,” according to the LWC statement. “Weekly claims certifications for unemployment benefits can still be filed through the automated phone system (1-866-783-5567) by selecting ‘Option 2’ to access your account and following the prompts.”
The call center staff cannot file new claims or provide any claims information, LWC wrote.
Heidi Turner, who was laid off in March and filing unemployment for the first time, told WAFB the call center wasn’t much help for her.
“When I called, they told me they didn’t know. I was told it could be a week, or it could be a month. Just keep filing,” she said. “That’s all really that they told me because they have no information.”
Updates on the situation will be posted to the LWC website.
The malware attack came just days after the LWC highlighted a not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.6% for May, the second lowest in history.
That figure is 0.1% higher than the revised rate for April 2022, and a decrease of 2.5% from May 2021’s rate of 6.1%.
The number of unemployed individuals increased by 2,071 from April to May 2022, when they totaled 75,963. That number is 49,472 fewer than the same month last year.
The number of not-seasonally adjusted employed individuals totaled 2,020,069 in May, down 3,512 from April.
All of Louisiana’s nine large metropolitan areas posted increases in the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate between April and May. The Hammond area showed the highest rate at 4.4%, while the Alexandria area was the lowest at 2.7%.