Another 5,200 people in the Bloomington-Normal area filed for unemployment for the first time in April — a staggering number that exceeded March's historic high.
While many white-collar employees have been able to work remotely, the governor's stay-at-home order shut down many other parts of the Bloomington-Normal economy in April. Many of the restaurants that remained open are running with fewer employees. Health care providers furloughed employees. Salons have closed. Massage therapists are out of work.
The 5,253 initial unemployment benefits claims in April is about 13 times higher than the 404 who filed in April 2019, according to data released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. It's even a slight increase over the 5,018 filed in March. Both were three three times higher than at the peak of the Great Recession in December 2008, when 1,852 people filed.
The spike in jobless claims in Bloomington-Normal is on par with what other downstate metro areas saw in April, including Champaign-Urbana (from 425 to 5,621) and Peoria (from 1,170 to 13,946), according to IDES data. It's happening across the country.
Bloomington-Normal’s jobless rate for March was just 2.8%. April's jobless rate will be released May 29. Given the two straight months of 5,000-plus jobless claims, in an area with around 92,000 nonfarm jobs, it's possible Bloomington-Normal's jobless rate will soar into the double digits.
Statewide, IDES has now processed more than 1 million initial jobless claims between March 1 and May 2. That's 12 times what it was last year.
While the statewide number of initial claims has slightly declined over the last two weeks, IDES says it may experience an increase when the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program becomes available on May 11. That's open to self-employed workers and sole proprietors.