First-time unemployment filings drop, experts say it does not mean much for the economy

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Indiana Department of Workforce saw first time unemployment insurance claims for Northeast Indiana drop last wee after seeing large spikes the weeks prior. While that seems like a good thing on the surface, local experts say that the numbers are just one piece of a larger picture.

In the week ending in April 3, first-time unemployment filings totaled 6,848 in Allen County and 14,942 in Northeast Indiana as a whole. That is roughly a 30 percent decrease each from the week before, which saw 9,950 filings in Allen County and 21,234 in Northeast Indiana. The numbers show that claims could be leveling off a bit, but Purdue Fort Wayne Community Research Institute Director Rachel Blakeman said there is plenty of information those numbers do not show.

“Any decline that you saw, while ultimately a good news sign, doesn’t tell us though much about the economy,” said Blakeman. “What we can anticipate is the people who filed for unemployment those first two weeks are still collecting unemployment, probably have not returned to work.”

In the three previous weeks, the region saw 42,279 claims, about half of which came from Allen County. Those are the numbers Northeast Indiana Works believes are most important to look at.

“Northeast Indiana had more people filing for unemployment the last three weeks than any other region in the state,” said Rick Farrant, Director of Communications for Northeast Indiana Works. “I think that’s the number that you really want to look at.”

According to Farrant, it is likely we will continue to see more unemployment claims as people continue to be put out of work by COVID-19. 

“I think there may be more layoffs,” said Farrant. “I also think that as the system at the Indiana Department of Workforce Development becomes more nimble, more and more people will be to get through and file for unemployment.”

It is too soon to tell just how this amount of people out of work could affect the economy. Blakeman said there are a lot of factors that come in to play, but being on employment can make people skittish when it comes to how they are spending their money.

“If you’re receiving unemployment, you’re unlikely to decide to purchase a new house, you’re going to be delaying, perhaps, getting a new car,” said Blakeman. “You’re going to be looking at minimum requirements for life.”

What is unique about the current situation the region is seeing is that despite layoffs and furloughs there are still people hiring. Farrant said that could mean we will start to see some people choosing to explore new jobs or careers instead of waiting and seeing if they still have their current job once things get back to normal.

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