Ohio's Unemployment Rate Hits A Record 16.8%

"Closed" signs on the front of a restaurant in Bexley near downtown Columbus
"Closed" signs on the front of a restaurant in Bexley near downtown Columbus [Karen Kasler]
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Ohio’s unemployment rate nearly tripled in just a month, setting a record as the impact of COVID-19 closures and the state’s stay-at-home order on economic activity are more fully realized.

April’s jobless rate of 16.8 percent is the highest ever recorded for Ohio, up a full 11 points since March.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kimberly Hall says she knows there have been problems, but the system’s workload went up by 2,600 percent when the first closures were ordered in mid-March.

“Compared of other states of our size of claims, we’re falling right in line," Hall said. "I do know that states that have caseloads similar to ours, there are some that are struggling, unfortunately, more than we are even with our antiquated system."

Ohio's 16-year-old filing system was undergoing an upgrade last year, but it wasn't fully completed before the pandemic hit.

In April, 957,000 Ohioans were listed as unemployed. More than 1.2 million people have filed jobless claims since mid-March, along with 618,000 who don’t typically qualify but are getting pandemic unemployment assistance from the federal government.

The number of Ohioans filing for unemployment since mid-March is more than the total who filed in the last three years.

Ohio’s jobless rate is two points higher than the national rate, beating the previous record of 14 percent in December 1982.

At this point, Hall also said, the state is not denying anyone benefits for refusing to return to work. That includes people who are having trouble securing child care, since daycares can't open till May 31. But it also includes people who are concerned their employers don't have proper safety guidelines in place.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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