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Valley cracks 20 percent unemployment

WARREN — Jobless rates in the Mahoning Valley cracked 20 percent last month, a desperate rise from March reflective of state and national trends as business grappled with shutdowns and layoffs amid the viral outbreak.

Wednesday’s dismal state report shows double-digit increases in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, and also in Warren in Youngstown from March, giving a clear picture of the depression the state’s stay-at-home order has caused on the local economy.

And it could take a long while before unemployment starts to come back to pre-COVID-19 numbers, according to an economist with Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank.

In April, the unemployment rate in Trumbull County was 21 percent, making it 17th worst in the state, and 20.1 percent in Mahoning County, placing it No. 24 among Ohio’s 88 counties.

The rates represent a 13.7 percent jump in Trumbull County and 13.1 percent increase in Mahoning County from March.

Columbiana County saw the largest jump, 14.4 percent to 20.4 percent last month. It is ranked No. 20.

In comparison, the Ohio’s jobless rate is 16.8 percent. For the U.S., it is 14.7 percent.

The rate in Warren is 23.5 percent, up 15.5 percent from March, and Youngstown is up 12.2 percent to settle at 20 percent for April.

PNC economist Bill Adams forecasts unemployment to come down to around 10 percent by the end of the year, but not before reaching 20 percent or higher in May and in June.

Pre-pandemic, the rate in the U.S. was hovering right around 3.5 percent.

“In a period of a week, we went form the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years to the highest unemployment rate in nearly 100 years,” Adams said.

If government restrictions on movement stay rolled back, the national rate could dip as low as 5 percent in early 2021 and it could take the full year to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

“It (5 percent) is no longer disastrously high, but is a significantly worse job market than we had in early 2020, so we think it will probably take, even if the recovery goes well, it would be a very positive surprise to see unemployment get back to where it was before 2022,” Adams said. “I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I don’t dare be that optimistic right now.”

Wednesday’s report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services came one day ahead of what it expected to be another round of high unemployment claims numbers.

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