‘An equal opportunity juggernaut’: Study reveals local minority groups among hardest hit by pandemic


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Northeast Indiana Works President and CEO Edmond O’Neal describes the pandemic’s impact on the local workforce as an “equal opportunity juggernaut.”

“Every worker group and industry was significantly affected by pandemic related-changes in regional workforces,” said O’Neal in a statement.

A new study from Northeast Indiana Works reveals minority communities were among the hardest hit by the pandemic when it came to unemployment. The study reviewed changes in the number of unemployment claims between two 12-month periods – Q2 2019 to Q2 2020 (when the pandemic had the worst impact on workers) and Q2 2020 to Q2 2021 (when COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed).

People that identify as Asian or Hispanic saw the highest increase in local unemployment claims during the early months of the pandemic. According to Northeast Indiana Works, unemployment claimants among Asians rose 11,846% and 2,648% among Hispanics between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020.

Minority communities also had difficulties in going back to work once the most stringent pandemic restrictions rolled back. Between Q2 2020 to Q2 2021, unemployment claimants among people who identify as Black only declined by nine percent. That is the lowest recovery percentage among ethnic and racial groups, according to Northeast Indiana Works.

“The slowness of the recovery is so dramatic that I think that’s something that – not just we, but other people in economic development, workforce development, social services – need to take a look at and see if we can figure out why that is,” said Rick Farrant, the director of communications for Northeast Indiana Works.

Farrant also believes there is a “complicated mosaic” of factors that contributed to the higher number of unemployment claims from minority communities.

“It’s going to take some time to work through all of those to work through what were the most salient factors that created this situation,” Farrant said.

Northeast Indiana Works also reviewed the pandemic’s impact on people applying for unemployment based on factors like gender, age, education level and the industry they work in. Below are some other takeaways from their study:

  • Unemployment claimants in the 20-24 age group increased 4,896% and 3,681% among those 65 and older between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020
  • Female workers were more adversely affected than males. Claimants among females rose 2,468% between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020 and 1,926% among males.
  • The less education a worker had the more likely they were to be affected by pandemic-related workforce changes. Claimants among those with an eighth-grade education or less rose 6,491% between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020; grades 9-11, 2,195%; high school graduates or the equivalent, 2,073%; and post high school, 2,066%.
  • The food and accommodations industry was hit hardest initially (a 7,228% increase in claimants between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020); construction fared best initially with just a 382% increase in claimants; the percentage of claimants in manufacturing remained highest of all industries throughout the first year of the pandemic (37% in Q2 2020 and 20% in Q2 2021); and the industry identified as management of companies and enterprises was the only industry to register an increase in the percentage of claimants in 2021 compared to 2020.

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