The Journal Gazette
Saturday, May 23, 2020 1:00 am

State joblessness at record 16.9%

Highest since 1982 and worse than national average

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana's 16.9% unemployment rate for April brings the state to a new record, according to data Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Indiana's seasonally adjusted labor force last month was at 3,237,228 and the number of employed was 2,691,319. An estimated 545,909 individuals were unemployed and seeking work, Workforce Development said in a Friday news release.

Among Midwest states, Michigan had the highest jobless rate for April – 22.7% when seasonally adjusted. Ohio and Illinois had unemployment rates more comparable to Indiana, at 16.8% and 16.45%, respectively, according to the Workforce Development data.

County-level April unemployment rates for Indiana are scheduled to be released Tuesday.

Indiana was above the national rate of 14.7% for April and a year ago in April, unemployment among Hoosiers was just 3.6%.

The reported March unemployment rate for Indiana was 3.2% because the survey was completed before many businesses shut down or scaled down operations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indiana's private-sector employment declined by 380,500 between March and April and 405,200 from April 2019, Workforce Development figures show. Statewide, leisure and hospitality lost the most jobs at 116,000. Manufacturing was second at 78,200 and education and health services had the third-highest number at 54,200.

“We went from full employment to record unemployment in less than 30 days. This shouldn't come as a surprise by now based on the volume of the weekly unemployment insurance claims,” Rachel Blakeman, director of the local Community Research Institute, said in a statement.

The surge in unemployment is due to social distancing measures. That affected “every industry sector in northeast Indiana and upended the lives of many workers, especially those in manufacturing and in food and accommodations,” said Rick Farrant, director of communications for Northeast Indiana Works.

Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said during a briefing with the governor Friday that the state's 16.7% unemployment rate is the highest in Indiana since 1982.

During a recession that included 1982, 12.8% of Indiana's workforce was sidelined.

Despite the unprecedented surge in first-jobless claims, Payne said 80 to 85% of them are moving from intake to payment in the required 21 days. Others take longer if more review is needed based on questions such as employment status, income verification, voluntary quit or clerical issues.

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