The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 1:00 am

Regional joblessness dwarfs '08

71,805 first-time claims in 7 weeks now; 11,218 then

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Northeast Indiana residents filed 71,805 first-time requests for jobless benefits between March 15 and May 2, according to figures released Monday.

Those unemployment claims to the state came from workers in Allen, Adams, DeKalb, Grant, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties – what the Indiana Department of Workforce Development calls Economic Growth Region 3.

In the first seven weeks of 2008, as the Great Recession began to take hold, 11,218 initial unemployment claims were filed, the Purdue University Fort Wayne Community Research Institute said Monday, based on data from the state. 

Northeast Indiana had the second-most claims of any of the state's regions during the seven-week mid-March to early May period in 2020. It trailed Region 12, which had 79,206 total initial claims and includes the Indianapolis-Marion County area.

During the governor's stay-at-home order, nearly half of the Region 3 claims – 35,459 – came from Allen County residents, the Research Institute said. Noble County had the second-highest, at 6,376.

Manufacturing workers made the most initial claims at 28,491, or 39.7% of the total. Noble, DeKalb, LaGrange, and Adams counties had at least 50% of their initial claims from manufacturing.

Claims from accommodation and food services ranked second at 8,139, or 11.3% of initial claims in Region 3; unclassified industry claims were third at 7,767 or 10.8%.

As industries resume operations, tracking continued unemployment claims will be key to understanding the post-shutdown recovery, the Research Institute said in a statement. Continued claims track those who have not returned to the work but remain eligible for unemployment insurance payments.

“This seven-week period gave us a nearly real-time look at how employers made immediate cuts to respond to market conditions,” Rachel Blakeman, Research Institute director, said through email. “Clearly employers' response to the shutdown order was swift and harsh but it trailed off as measured by initial unemployment claims.”

Rick Farrant, communications director for Northeast Indiana Works, said now is a good time for workers to consider additional training, including through the WorkOne Northeast career centers.

“For a number of years before the pandemic emerged, we encouraged people to skill up to meet the demands of the 21st-century workforce and in doing so achieving some measure of job security,” he said.

“A little sleuthing,” he said, may help workers contemplating career options land in a better spot.

“Some industries may blossom, some may retract,” Farrant said. “Some careers that held only moderate promise before the pandemic may now become essential moving forward. Some completely new jobs may sprout up.”

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