The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 1:00 am

Thousands rush to make jobless claims

1st-time filings in county up 3,688%

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Jobless claims for Allen County residents filing for the first time surged nearly 3,700% last week compared to a year ago, figures from the state show.

Allen County had 3,561 initial claims for the week ending March 21, according to Indiana Department of Workforce Development figures released Tuesday.

For the week ending March 14, Allen County had just 115 first-time claimants.

Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, had the largest number of claims, 10,173 for the week ended March 21, up 3,291% from the same period last year.

Jobless claims could rise substantially with Indiana moving to a stay-at-home state under an order Gov. Eric Holcomb issued Monday, which took effect at 11:59  p.m. Tuesday.

The governor's order comes amid a global pandemic, forcing non-essential businesses to shut down to slow the risk of coronavirus spreading easily when multiple people are gathered in the same space.

Some essential businesses allowed to remain open include groceries and pharmacies. Retailers including Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, CVS and Dollar General have in the past few weeks announced plans to add hundreds or thousands of jobs, including in Indiana, to meet customer demand.

Many workers were sidelined even before Holcomb's order, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines limiting crowds and health officials increasingly reduced those numbers to not exceed 10.

While some employers, ranging from Vera Bradley to Kohl's, have announced employees will be paid for at least two weeks amid the crisis, some workers are not guaranteed pay, thus the jobless claims spike.

A year ago, Allen County had 99 first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ending March 16, down nearly 15% from the same period of 2018. For the week ending March 23, the number was 94 – up 17.5% from the previous year. But for the week ending March 30, the county's 76 new claims represented a 29% drop from that period in 2018, according to the state's database.

So this year's jump between the week ending March 14 to the one ending March 21 this year was sharp. 

“We're in what we keep saying is unprecedented territory. I wasn't sure what we were going to see. Clearly it is dramatic,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

But Blakeman, in a Tuesday telephone interview, also said there was also a push, including from state workforce officials last week, to help educate and encourage eligible people to file for unemployment benefits. 

Data on what job sectors the first-time filers were employed in was not immediately available.

Despite some aggressive hiring plans, restaurant workers have been hit as those businesses scaled back to take-out and drive-thru service. It's unclear, Blakeman said, whether skills restaurant workers have will easily match the needs of employers who are hiring.

“But,” she added, “there's a whole new pool of people suddenly available for work.”

At a glance

Unemployment insurance claims by area county for the week ending March 21 and the percentage increase from the same week last year.

Allen 3,561 3,688%
Adams 156 100%
DeKalb 382 100%
Huntington 304 100%
Kosciusko 468 1,237%
Noble 300 1,204%
Steuben 268 100%
Wells 125 100%
Whitley 210 100%

Source: Indiana Department of Workforce Development

Those who have been affected by job loss can file claims at

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