The Upper Valley temporarily closed in March following Gov. Mike DeWine’s first stay-at-home order. The mall reopened in early May. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Clark, Champaign unemployment rates jump in April, dip slightly in May

The unemployment rate in both Clark and Champaign counties jumped drastically in April due to the immediate economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic before dipping slightly in May as the state started to reopen portions of its economy.

The unemployment rate in Clark County went from 5.3% in March to 17.4% in April before going down to 12.4% in May. In Champaign County that rate increased from 4.6% in March to 20.1% in April before dropping to 11% in May.

In the end of March and the beginning of April, both counties also saw a record high jump in claims for unemployment benefits, following state and nationwide trends at the time.

Employment in Clark County also dropped to its lowest level in April when compared to federal labor data collected over the last 30 years.

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The number of people listed as working in the county that month was 43,800 people, which was a drop from a reported workforce of 49,900 people in March. It represented the single largest one-month job decrease in the county over the last three decades, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That data looked at the number of jobs available as well as the number of people who work in Clark County.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an overwhelming economic impact spanning across different industries and sectors, said Bill LaFayette, an economist and owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm.

However, the largest impact has been to leisure and hospitality. That includes recreational areas and businesses as well as restaurants, hotels and other places of lodging.

“We were still feeling those impacts into May,” LaFayette said.

Even though, places previously closed due to the pandemic are starting to reopen, there is still a number of people who are not comfortable with going out as they did before the pandemic, he added.

A statewide order in March called for the closing of businesses that were deemed nonessential. Those that were allowed to remain open had to make adjustments or temporarily suspend operation. The later was largely attributed to either a lack of customers or because of shortfalls in the supply chain.

However, the state began reopening phases of its economy in the beginning of May. Businesses that were deemed nonessential or had temporarily closed due to other factors began reopening throughout that month and in June.

The labor force, the number of residents who are employed or are actively looking for work, fluctuated during those months as well.

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In March, Clark County had a labor force of 63,700 people, in which 60,300 residents were listed as having some form of employment.

In April, the overall labor force increased to 65,000 but the number of people listed as employed went down to 53,700. The labor force dipped down to 63,600 in May, while the number of people employed went up to 55,700.

In Champaign County, the number of people in its labor force in March was 20,100, with 19,200 being listed as employed. Both of those numbers dropped in April with the labor force going to 19,500 and the number of people being employed going down to 15,600.

However there was a slight increase in the labor force in May with 19,700 residents counted and 17,500 of them listed as employed.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted industries differently, said Horton Hobbs, the vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield. Some business sectors have fared better than others. Some employers saw and increase in business while others had to temporarily shutter their doors.

The nature of the pandemic has also caused a lot of uncertainty on how this will impact consumer confidence in the months to come, even as some business see a gradual return of customers, he added.

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