Unemployment skyrockets as more workers furloughed

17 April 2020 - Tammy Shaw (The Sentinel-News)

Unemployment is shooting upward across the nation, the commonwealth and the county due to measures to stem the flow of the novel coronavirus.

Although official Kentucky numbers lag, those released Thursday morning show the state’s preliminary unemployment rate for March 2020 at 5.8 percent, up 1.6 points from February and 1.6 points from March 2019.

But these preliminary numbers come with some confusion.

“Closures caused by the coronavirus contributed to nearly 63,000 fewer people working in March than in February,” said Mike Clark, University of Kentucky Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) interim director in a release. “The data suggests that approximately half of these individuals appeared to still be looking for work, while half left the labor force. However, there may have been some confusion among respondents who temporarily lost jobs but are likely to be recalled by their employers. While these workers should be classified as unemployed, they were classified as having left the labor force in the March estimates.”

The actual number of unemployed Americans is estimated in the millions so far nationwide with more than 520,000 unemployment claims submitted in Kentucky from March 16 to Tuesday evening, costing the state $150 million so far for 450,000 Kentuckians, according to Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Deputy Secretary Josh Benton at Tuesday’s televised coronavirus update.

That number is almost double the 280,000 Kentuckians who filed unemployment in the three weeks ending April 4, according to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

State unemployment claims for the week ending March 28 were 113,149 new claims and more than 24,000 existing claims out of 1.9 million workers covered by unemployment insurance.

Claims between 14,000 and 16,000 flow into the Kentucky unemployment office each day since mid-March, Benton said.

Claim and rates by county aren’t set to come out until next week.

As the state unemployment number for March nearly reached 6 percent, Shelby County’s number is likely to move up next week as well.

Shelby had 3 percent unemployment on Feb. 29, an historic low, trailing just Oldham County at 2.9.


Of the 450,000 Kentuckians who have filed more than 520,000 claims (some are duplicates), some unemployed individuals either aren’t getting through to the unemployment office due to the vast number of calls and applications or claims may be on hold for several reasons, Benton said.

The 13-15 day filing window hasn’t occurred yet.

An unemployed person may have filed twice.

More identification verification may be needed to avoid fraud.

The claim is under investigation, such as prior overpayment on a previous claim or employer protest.

To file for unemployment or for more information, the Kentucky Career Center has a step-by-step page on its website at kcc.ky.gov/career/Pages/What%20You%20Need%20To%20Know.aspx or uiclaims.des.ky.gov/ebenefit/eben.htm.

But numbers don’t express the devastating effect business closures have had on people.

Besides restaurants, one of the hardest hit industries for furloughed employees is personal care, such as hair salons and spas.

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