The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 01, 2020 1:00 am

9,950 file for unemployment in county

Nearly triples previous week

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

First-time requests from Allen County residents for unemployment insurance surged once again, with 9,950 filing claims last week, figures released Tuesday show.

The total number of claims statewide more than doubled, going from 53,608 the previous week to 120,331 last week for a total of 173,939 first-time claims in the two-week period.

Allen County had 9,950 initial claims last week, almost three times the 3,561 claims filed the week before. Three weeks ago, Allen County had just 115 first-time claims, according to previously released data.

Allen County, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, had Indiana's second largest number of claims through Saturday. Allen eclipsed Lake County, which has a larger population, said Rachel Blakeman, director of Purdue University Fort Wayne's Community Research Institute.

Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, continued to have the largest number of claims at 13,546. Elkhart County had the third highest number at 9,844. 

Jobless claims were expected to rise, particularly after an order from Indiana's governor effective March 25 to close nonessential businesses. But Blakeman was surprised by the local increase from the week ending March 21 to last week.

“If we thought the first week's numbers were high, it's even more eye-popping this week. The scope of the public-health closures and diminished consumer spending is coming into focus at this point. The scale is clearly unprecedented,” Blakeman said through email.

Specific information about what industries first-time filers worked in was not immediately available. But the retail and restaurant sectors, despite delivery and pickup meal orders, have been hard hit.

Many restaurants suspended dine-in service last month, based on guidance from public health officials.

Macy's this week joined other retailers, including Kohl's, announcing thousands of workers would be furloughed. Kohl's has three Fort Wayne locations. Macy's is one of the anchors at Glenbrook Square.

And on Tuesday, J.C. Penney – another Glenbrook anchor – announced it would extend the temporary closure of all its stores and business offices due to COVID-19. The retailer said it anticipates gradually reopening stores and offices in markets when it is safe to do so. Starting Thursday, most J.C. Penney hourly associates will be furloughed. Many of the company's employees in supply chain and logistics centers have been furloughed since March 20.

“These are difficult days all across the country and the globe. At JCPenney, we are making tough, prudent decisions to protect both the safety of our associates and the future of our company,” CEO Jill Soltau said in a statement. 

Northeast Indiana Works and WorkOne Northeast have been tracking layoffs reported to them, spokesman Rick Farrant said.

The tracking does not include all layoffs but shows manufacturing is quickly shedding jobs, Farrant said Tuesday in an email.

“Thus far, we've documented the layoffs of at least 12,630 manufacturing workers in northeast Indiana, and that number will likely continue to grow,” Farrant said. “The impact on the manufacturing industry in the region is significant because the sector is the largest employing industry with nearly 85,000 jobs and is also one of the higher-paying industries.”

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