Ohio’s unemployment rate dipped significantly last month — hitting its lowest percentage since the coronavirus pandemic stunted the state’s labor force in March — but unemployment numbers remain nearly three times that of last summer.
According to a monthly report by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, Ohio’s unemployment rate was 10.9% in June 2020, down from 13.9% in May. Nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased by 208,000 jobs, eclipsing 5 million jobs this month, and the number of unemployed workers dropped by 166,000.
Coupled with the reopening of such businesses, bars and restaurants, tourist destinations and recreational facilities, Ohio’s COVID-19 cases have surged. The state has reported over a 1,000 new probable and confirmed cases daily for 14-straight days, averaging 17 deaths per day, and toppling over 78,000 total cases and 3,200 deaths.
Financial news site WalletHub ranked Ohio 34th in the nation for recovering unemployment rates and 26th for quickest recovered unemployment claims amid the pandemic. Comparatively, Kentucky, which ranked 1st in recovering unemployment rates, saw a negative change (-6.5%) in employment between June 2019 and June 2020. Ohio’s unemployment rate is up 156.2% compared to June 2019 and continued unemployment claims are up 945.1%.
Mike Shields, a researcher for Policy Matters Ohio — a nonprofit policy research institute — said this spike in cases could “signal that some parts of the economy were reopened too quickly and may have to be slowed once more to avert even more illness and deaths.”
“These numbers show the pandemic is strengthening with destructive consequences for both Ohioans’ health and the economy,” Shields added.
Shields predicts, as supported by economic indicators and rising coronavirus cases, that Ohio’s recession will “stick around for a while,” he said. Ohio’s economic output is not expected to reach pre-recession levels until Fiscal Year 2023, according to projections by the Legislative Budget Office.
Shields said the most immediate cushion for the economy is to extend the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which paid millions of Americans $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits and is set to expire on July 25; an estimated 20 million Americans receive — or received — pandemic unemployment benefits.
“Without action, that payment will abruptly end next week on July 25, creating immense hardship for Ohio families and causing a major contraction in consumer spending that will shutter more businesses and destroy more jobs,” Shields said. “Congress should renew (Pandemic Unemployment Compensation) and keep support flowing as long as it’s needed by replacing the arbitrary end-date with an economic trigger of near-full employment.”
Shields also argued that restoring the state’s economic vitality rests on public health measures, including workplace safety protocol, continued unemployment support for those displaced from work, and paid sick leave.
“Steering the economy back to health means keeping people healthy,” he said. “That means workplace safety protocols and extended unemployment. Without both, we will see needless loss of life and new job losses.”
Rea Hederman Jr., executive director of the Economic Research Center at The Buckeye Institute, echoed many of Shield’s sentiments, adding that lawmakers should provide businesses and workers with “immunity” from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The free-market think tank provided proponent testimony for House Bill 606, which would grant immunity to essential workers who transmit COVID-19. The bill passed in the legislature.
“Although unemployment is still high, the June jobs report shows that Ohio’s economy continues to recover from the impact of the pandemic,” Hederman said in a statement. “However, Ohio has a long way to go to fully recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.”
Maggie Prosser is a rising senior at Ohio University studying journalism and political science. She previously served as editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper, The New Political. She also interned for The Columbus Dispatch’s Public Affairs desk and The Chautauquan Daily in western New York. Read more Ohio Capital Journal stories here.