County unemployment worst in almost 38 years


Numbers reflecting COVID-19’s effect on the economy show Dubois County posting its worst unemployment rate in almost 38 years.

Dubois County’s jobless rate reached 10.6% in April, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The last time the rate can be verified to have been any higher was in 1982, when May unemployment was 10.7%.

Dubois County slipped from being tied at No. 1 in the ranking of the state’s 92 counties in March to being listed sixth in the latest report. Daviess County had Indiana’s lowest April rate: 8.4% (up from 2.6%).

The worst April rate was found in Howard County, home to Kokomo in north-central Indiana. Howard County’s rate in April was 34.1% (up from 3.9%).

The state’s reporting of March unemployment had placed Dubois County’s rate at 2.4%, or 8.2 percentage points lower than the April showing. The reason, Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne had explained, was that monthly employment reports represent a coordinated effort throughout the nation with a specified reporting time frame that targets the week that includes the 12th day of the month. For March, he said, that week actually ended right before Indiana experienced its first surge of COVID-19-related unemployment claims.

April’s report covers the second half of March and the first few weeks of April.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the nation’s economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, marking the most sudden and largest decline since the government began tracking in 1939.

Hoosiers By The Numbers reported that 127,010 state residents filed unemployment claims the first week of April. Two weeks prior to that, there were 2,300 statewide claims. There were 118,184 initial unemployment claims the next week that ended April 11, which was a 4,886.7% change from the same week in 2019.

The new state report placed Indiana’s overall unemployment rate at 16.9%, higher than the national rate of 14.7%. The state as a whole has lost 405,200 private sector jobs over the year and 380,500 over the previous month. The monthly decrease was primarily due to losses in the leisure and hospitality (-116,000), manufacturing (-78,200) and private educational and health services (-54,200) sectors, according to Workforce Development.

Dubois County’s neighboring counties also saw their April rates rise. Those rates were: Daviess, 8.4% (up from 2.7%); Martin, 8.8% (up from 2.7%) Orange, 25.8% (up from 3.7%); Perry, 17.8% (up from 3.1%); Pike, 15.2% (up from 3.5%); Spencer, 13.1% (up from 3.4%) and Warrick, 13.1% (up from 2.8%).

Dubois County’s labor force consisted of 20,623 people in April — 18,431 of whom were employed. That left 2,192 classified as unemployed.

By way of comparison, the county’s rate in April 2019 was 2.1% or 8.5% lower than the fourth month of this year.

Indiana’s 16.9% April rate was on par with some of its immediate neighboring states. Those other states’ rates were Ohio, 16.8 % (up from 5.5%); Kentucky, 15.4% (up from 5.8%); Michigan, 22.7% (up from 4.1%); and Illinois, 16.4% (up from 4.6%). Other Midwest rates in April were Minnesota, 8.1% (up from 3.1%), and Wisconsin, 14.1% (up from 3.4%).

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