JEFFERSON CITY – State data released Wednesday show Missouri's unemployment rate reached 4.5% in March, and that's likely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the hit coronavirus has taken on jobs.


Missouri unemployment was 3.5% in February.


April unemployment data could reflect a much steeper increase in the state's jobless rate. Gov. Mike Parson didn't issue a statewide stay-at-home order until April 7, although many local governments already had similar requirements in place by then.


Unemployment claims shot up in response to the pandemic. Nearly 238,000 people filed new unemployment benefit claims in Missouri in the first three weeks after the coronavirus crisis began hitting the economy. That's more than 1 in 12 eligible workers.


Missouri's Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on Wednesday urged self-employed and gig workers to also file for unemployment.


Missouri's unemployment program doesn't cover those individuals, but they are eligible for $133 to $320 a week through a federal coronavirus aid program, according to the state labor department. The agency expects to start processing those claims as soon as next week.