Ohio Weekly Unemployment Claims Rise Slightly to 35K

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reports 35,422 unemployment claims were filed in the week ended July 11, up about 2,000 from the previous week.

Though the figure is nearly 239,000 fewer than the weekly peak in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the weekly number of claims has been holding steady in the low- to mid-30,000 range since early June.

In the 17 weeks since the pandemic began taking an economic toll on Ohio, the state has disbursed more than $5.2 billion in unemployment compensation to 1,499,712 claimants, with about 94% of claims processed. Department of Job and Family Services has also issued more than $4.1 billion in pandemic unemployment assistance payments to 449,000 claimants.

As of Thursday morning, Pennsylvania had not yet released the number of unemployment claims filed for the week ended July 11. Through July 4, the state had received 1,825,079 claims.

Nationally, 1.3 million workers filed for unemployment, marking the 17th straight week that more than 1 million claims were filed. The total number of people receiving benefits dropped to 17.3 million, suggesting some companies are continuing to rehire workers, which could offset some of the job losses reflected in the still-high level of claims.

The elevated level of applications for jobless aid is occurring as new confirmed cases of coronavirus are spiking across much of the Sunbelt, threatening to weaken the economic recovery. Case counts are rising in 40 states and 22 states have either paused or reversed their efforts to reopen their economies, according to Bank of America. 

An additional 928,000 people sought benefits last week under a separate program for self-employed and gig workers that has made them eligible for aid for the first time. These figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government doesn’t include them in the official count. 

The resurgence of the virus and new business shutdowns in states such as Florida and California, along with signs that consumers are pulling back from eating out and other activities, has intensified fears that the economic recovery is losing steam.

The government’s employment report for June showed a solid gain of 4.8 million jobs and an unemployment rate that fell to 11.1% from 13.3%. 

But economists increasingly doubt that such a pace can be sustained. The number of employees working at small businesses declined last week, particularly in states with worsening viral outbreaks, according to data from Homebase, a company that makes scheduling and work-tracking software.

“The risk of a dip lower in the economy has increased as more states adopt policies to combat the virus spread,” economists at Bank of America said in research note. “Until the country manages to get the virus under control, the recovery is likely to be one of fits and starts.”

Applications for jobless aid are expected to remain stuck at the worrisome level of around 1.2 million, the 17th straight week of claims above the 1 million mark. Before the pandemic intensified in mid-March, the highest weekly figure on record was about 700,000. 

Sales at retail stores and restaurants likely rose 5.4% in June, according to data provider FactSet. That would follow a record gain of nearly 18% in May  as shops, restaurants and bars reopened after nationwide shutdowns in the previous months, when sales plummeted. Still, sales will likely remain sharply below their levels of a year ago. California, Florida and other states have closed down bars for a second time and barred indoor dining because cases are surging. 

The government’s employment report for June showed a solid gain of 4.8 million jobs and an unemployment rate that fell to 11.1%, from 13.3%. 

But it’s not clear that such a pace can be sustained. The number of employees working at small businesses declined last week, particularly in states with worsening viral outbreaks, according to data from Homebase, a company that makes scheduling and work-tracking software.

And companies continue to lay off people. American Airlines warned its workers Wednesday that it may have to cut up to 25,000 jobs in October because of sharply reduced air travel. Airlines are barred from layoffs until then as a condition of federal aid they have received. United Airlines  has already told 36,000 workers they may lose their jobs.

Air traffic began to slowly rebound in mid-April, but like other parts of the economy, the improvement plateaued in July as the viral outbreak worsens. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.