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Jobless claims slow in Valley

Unemployment benefit claims dipped below 1,000 in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties for the first time in the nine weeks since the viral outbreak sent jobless numbers soaring.

It was the first time the number was below 1,000 in Mahoning County and the second time for Trumbull County.

Yet, the far-reaching effect of widespread business shutdown still is felt in the Mahoning Valley, where nearly 50,000 sought jobless aid since March 15.

Last week in the Valley — already rocked with high unemployment before Ohio’s stay-at-home order depressed the economy — 814 new claims were filed in Trumbull County, according to Thursday’s jobless report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That pushes the more than two-month total to 21,846.

Mahoning County saw 942 new claims for a total 25,996 claims.

The numbers come as Ohio has relaxed restrictions on businesses starting May 12 with most retail followed by hair and nail salons and barbers, and on restaurants, among others.

In Ohio, little more than 46,000 new claims were filed last week, giving the state 1.2 million claims filed since March 15. That’s more claims than the last three years combined.

The state has paid more than $2.8 billion in unemployment compensation to more than 619,000 claimants. Of the claims, about 92 percent have been processed.

In addition, more than $21 million has been paid under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to more than 161,000 people.

In the U.S., more than 38.6 million Americans have now filed for aid with 2.4 million last week in the latest wave of layoffs.

The number of weekly applications has slowed for seven straight weeks, and last week the figures declined in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Yet historically, they remain immense — roughly 10 times the typical figure that prevailed before the virus struck.

“While the steady decline in claims is good news, the labor market is still in terrible shape,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank. “In early March, before states put restrictions on movement, claims were running at a pace of 200,000 to 220,000 per week, so initial claims are still running at more than 10 times that pace.”

“And before the viral recession, the previous all-time high for claims was about 700,000 in 1982,” Faucher said.

During April, U.S. employers shed 20 million jobs, eliminating a decade’s worth of job growth in a single month. The unemployment rate reached 14.7 percent, the highest since the Depression. Millions of other people who were out of work weren’t counted as unemployed because they didn’t look for a new job.

Since then, 10 million more laid-off workers have applied for jobless benefits.

Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont, said the most recent layoffs may be particularly worrisome because they’re happening even as states are gradually reopening their economies. This could mean that many companies foresee scant likelihood of a substantial economic recovery anytime soon and so still feel a need to cut jobs.

“There’s a high probability that those layoffs could persist for longer than those that were a function of (businesses) just being closed,” Stanley said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Initial unemployment claims by county

Mahoning County

March 15 to 21 — 4,560

March 22 to 28 — 6,018

March 29 to April 4 — 5,021

April 5 to 11 — 2,964

April 12 to 18 — 2,003

April 19 to 25 — 2,075

April 26 to May 2 — 1,362

May 2 to 9 — 1,051

May 10 to 16 — 942

Total — 25,996

Trumbull County

March 15 to 21 — 3,614

March 22 to 28 — 4,969

March 29 to April 4 — 4,378

April 5 to 11 — 2,661

April 12 to 18 — 1,665

April 19 to 25 — 1,713

April 26 to May 2 — 1,081

May 2 to 9 — 951

May 10 to 16 — 814

Total — 21,846

Source: Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

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