SOUTHERN INDIANA — April may be remembered as the bottom of the downturn in the economy as a result of COVID-19, and the latest jobs report shows what a historically terrible month it was on the labor front.

The Louisville Metro Statistical Area — which includes Floyd and Clark counties — in April saw its highest number of jobs shed on record in a month. About 115,000 jobs were lost over the month, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“As a comparison, the worst month for Louisville Metro during the Great Recession was a loss of approximately 6,000 jobs,” said Uric Dufrene, Sanders Chair in Business at Indiana University Southeast.

“Over the entire Great Recession, the metro area lost about 30,000 jobs.”

The losses set the area back to 1996 total employment levels and resulted in a 16.6 percent unemployment rate for the metro area. The rate was 3.5 percent in March.

The number of unemployed workers in the area rose to 107,000, and 23,000 people dropped out of the workforce.

As shown in previous reports, leisure and hospitality felt the brunt of the pandemic’s blow to the economy in April. The sector shed 28,000 jobs in the metro area over the month.

“This is more than half of the jobs that existed prior to the COVID pandemic,” Dufrene said.

Manufacturing was also hit hard with a decline of 21,000 jobs in April. Education and health services also dropped about 21,000 positions, though Dufrene said there should be a quick rebound in that sector with medical offices reopening and elective operations resuming.

Dufrene predicted improvements in manufacturing in next month’s report, though his outlook wasn’t as optimist for the retail sector. Louisville metro saw a drop of about 6,000 retail jobs in April.

“The loss of 6,000 jobs accelerates the trend that we have been observing about retail jobs in general,” Dufrene said. “Some of these jobs will return, but many will not due to consumer trends in online shopping.”

There were some encouraging signs locally in May.

According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Clark County saw a high for the month in early April of 1,827 new unemployment claims, with Floyd County’s peak coming a little later on April 11 at 1,185.

For the week ending May 16, there were 367 new unemployment claims in Clark County and 212 in Floyd County.

Both counties also saw continued unemployment claims decline beginning in May. As of May 9, Clark County had 4,038 continued jobless claims and Floyd County had 2,307.

The massive job losses leading to historic unemployment rates will make the current recession one of the deepest.

“It will also be one of the quickest exits,” Dufrene said. “We will be out of the recession by the end of this year. We will continue to observe elevated unemployment rates, but the region and the country will be on an upward trajectory of economic expansion.”

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, spoke about his proposed RESTART Act on the Senate floor Wednesday. During a stop in New Albany last week, Young touted the legislation as a way to help businesses and employment.

The legislation calls for expanded forgiveness time for Paycheck Protection Program loans and would provide additional loans covering up to six months of payroll and fixed expenses.

“It would provide needed funds with f lexibility for business owners to pay bills, implement social distancing measures, and bring employees back to work,” Young said in his remarks to the Senate.
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