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Business and Economy
WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Over 5,000 People Claim Jobless Benefits In Bloomington-Normal Area

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Ashley Binkowski
A sign hangs in the door at Kings Full Hairstyling on Emerson Street in Bloomington.

More than 5,000 people in the Bloomington-Normal area claimed unemployment benefits in March—a ten-fold increase from a year ago that offers a new view of COVID-19’s economic toll.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) reported that 5,018 people in the Bloomington-Normal area filed initial unemployment benefits claims in March, when the stay-at-home order went into effect. That’s up from 357 people in February, and 501 people in March 2019, according to IDES data.

The spike in jobless claims is being felt across the country and across the state. For the week ending March 28, Illinoisans filed 178,421 jobless claims—up from just 9,230 a year ago.

In 2019 in the Bloomington-Normal area, there were typically between 3,100 and 4,400 unemployed people at any given time, according to monthly tallies from IDES. With over 90,000 nonfarm jobs in Bloomington-Normal, that’s kept the jobless rate low, between 3% and 4.5%. Bloomington-Normal’s jobless rate for March 2020 will not be released until April 23.

The 5,018 people claiming unemployment benefits in March in Bloomington-Normal is nearly three times higher than at the peak of the Great Recession. That happened in December 2018, when 1,852 people filed for initial jobless claims in Bloomington-Normal, IDES data show.

The ten-fold increase in jobless claims in Bloomington-Normal is on par with what other downstate metro areas saw in March, including Peoria (from 1,125 to 11,128) and Champaign-Urbana (from 528 to 5,172), according to IDES data.

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